Monday, July 26, 2010

Almost Heraldry in Jamestown, Virginia

For my last entry on the heraldry at the original settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, I’ve got a photograph of something that I’ve seen way too often here in the United States.  This one is one of four on a large monument at the site.
That’s right – it’s an empty shield, a very common architectural and decorative motif. In my review of heraldry in downtown Dallas, Texas, near where I live, I found that empty, blank shields and oval shields were far more common than shields and ovals with heraldic designs on them.

I’m not sure why this is so. In some ways I can understand it; having someone carve a coat of arms onto a shield shape will cost more than simply designing a blank one. But still, I have to wonder – what’s the purpose of having a blank shield? I swear, it’s all I can do some days, to resist the temptation to grab a few cans of spray paint in the usual heraldic tinctures, load them and a ladder onto my van, drive downtown late some evening, and fill some of those blank shields with real heraldry. (The fact that I’d be arrested for doing so is one of the factors that keeps me at home blogging instead of following through on that temptation.)

But still, when there’s so much heraldry available, and that could be appropriately used, for such architectural decoration, why use a blank shield?


  1. Perhaps your urge to paint the blank is not far off the mark; surely it is quite possible that originally they weren't blank at all but were in fact painted and displayed the arms of the owner in full glory. The very worn look of this example would not rule out an original painted shield. Perhaps the offer of a pint for your local forensic officer might solve the riddle?
    Always enjoy your blog.

    Martin Goldstraw

  2. Alas, I'm pretty certain that it was actually designed this way. The entire monument is of cast concrete with that "rough" look to it, and frankly, the monument isn't all that old. Given the vast numbers of empty shields I've found in architectural decoration everywhere I travel in this country, I feel confident that it was designed this way. (I _do_ want to talk to them about the incorrect colors painted on the Royal Arms in the chapel there, though.)