Monday, February 28, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Seventeen

I found this next coat of arms to be an interesting one.  Though it contains a ladder as the sole charge on the field, it is not canting heraldry like the arms of Scala ("ladder" in Italian is "scaletta"), nor is it the arms of the Galilei family (Or a ladder gules), whose most famous member, Galileo, resided in Florence.

However, there is a clue to the owner of this coat of arms in the picture above.  Not on the shield itself, but in the birds flanking the shield in this decorative tympanum.  They are falcons, and the arms are those of Falconieri, Gules a ladder checky argent and azure.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Pictures of Heraldry On-Line

As if you didn’t have enough other things on the web that eat up all of your “copious free time,” there’s the website Flickr ( which allows not only people to post pictures of all kinds (well, probably only most kinds), but allows these same folks (you, me, others. Well, maybe not me. It’s about all I can do right now to keep up with this blog, my website, Facebook, and LinkedIn, along with email) to group those photos into sets and collections. And then – and this is where the trouble really starts – they have “groups.”

People can join a group and upload photos with others of a particular topic. Say, the “Art of Heraldry.” Or “Church Monument Heraldry”. Or “Bookplates” (which often contain coats of arms).

Anyway, because I don’t want to feel like I’m the only one out here spending hours of my time looking at pictures of heraldry, I offer here for you so that you can join me, the following Flickr groups:

Art of Heraldry:
Church Monument Heraldry:

Enjoy!  I know I will.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heraldry in the Catalogue

Oh, dear. I received, as I do periodically, a catalogue in the mail from a firm called Design Toscano. They sell a lot of interesting, and sometimes oddball, goods. I receive their catalogues because I’ve ordered a couple of heraldic ties from them in the past. These heraldic ties, and their other ties, can be found on their website on-line at

I was a bit put off by one item in the most recent catalogue, on page 7, titled “’Queen Victoria’s Royal Coat of Arms’ Shield Sculpture.”

The text with it says it is “Inspired by Queen Victoria’s 1837 Royal Coat of Arms….” Well, yeah, “inspired by” is probably accurate, in the same way that some movies which often bear little or no resemblance to the book of the same title are said to be “based on” that book.

And, in fact, three of the four quarters of the shield containing what is even today the current Royal Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are correct, containing not only the tinctures but the correct hatching for the tinctures of the field. (Vertical lines for gules, or red; horizontal lines for azure, or blue.) It is, however, the second quarter, which should contain the arms of Scotland (Or a lion rampant within a double-tressure flory-counterflory gules) that the inspiration fails, as you can see from this rendition of those arms.

My guess is that they thought they would (and, in fact, they actually might, at least in Great Britain) run into legal problems if they accurately reproduced and sold the Royal Arms. Because, of course, this way they can argue that with the second quarter being Azure a lion rampant or, the arms they are selling are not the arms of the United Kingdom.

But then, of course, they really shouldn’t be calling the shield “Queen Victoria’s Royal Coat of Arms,” because it’s not.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Sixteen

Some of the renditions of coats of arms seen about the city of Florence are older than others. This one, inset into a wall and rather weathered, is one of those.

The arms are those of Frescobaldi, Gules three chessrooks argent and a chief or. (Yes, I know that it looks rather like it might be Per fess, in base three chessrooks argent, but in other renditions of the same arms in some of the armorials I checked show it clearly as a chief.)

But what a great achievement of arms to have seen, and one of the few I ran across with both a crest and a supporter.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Fifteen

Today’s coat of arms was found in two different renditions in different media, though both on the same building, the Palazzo Vecchietti.

The arms are those of Vecchietti, blazoned as Azure five ermines proper, two, two and one, heads to chief respectant.

Ermines proper are, of course, white with black at the tips of their tails.

The arms are a bit unusual in that the arrangement of the ermines is oddly balanced, with all of the charges almost passant erect and facing towards the center of the shield. And yet it’s really nice, simple heraldry, quickly and easily identifiable.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Fourteen

We ran across a couple of framed pages containing coats of arms in our hotel. However, the arms displayed were from, of all places, Scotland! (I know that I’ve said many times that “you can find heraldry everywhere!”, but these displays surprised even me.) Each frame contained four coats of arms.  The first was:

The Lord of ye Ilis: Or an eagle displayed gules beaked and armed sable overall a lymphad sable.

Steuert Lord of Lorne: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Or a ship sable enflamed at the prow, stern and mast-head gules; 2 and 3, Or a fess checky azure and argent and in chief a garb sable.

Erskyne Lord Erskyn: Argent a pale sable.

Flemyng Lord Flemŷg: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Gules a chevron within a double tressure flory-counterflory Or; 2 and 3, Azure five cinquefoils argent.

The first page of arms is pretty clearly from the Armorial of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount. The four coats here are given in the same order (and with the same spellings) as in that armorial.  Modern standardized spellings would of course be: The Lord of the Isles; Stewart, Lord of Lorne; Lord Erskine; and Lord Fleming.

The arms of Lord Fleming are found in several Scottish armorials, but with varying numbers of the cinquefoils: four in the Dunvegan Armorial, five in David Lindsay of the Mount’s Armorial, and six in the Dublin Armorial.

And the second contained:

lord gordoun: Azure three boar’s heads couped argent.

lord gyffert of auld: Barry [of six] ermine and gules.

lord boyis of dryvisdaill of auld: Argent a saltire and a chief sable.

lord of nyddisdaill of auld: Sable a lion rampant argent.

Modern standardized spellings of the names would be: Lord Gordon; Lord Giffard of Old; Lord Boyes of Drysdale; and the Lord of Nithsdale of Old.

I’m not sure where this second page of arms comes from; it does not seem to be from David Lindsay of the Mount’s Armorial. But I do know where it ended up; on the wall at the Hotel Paris in Florence.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Thirteen

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to visit Florence and not see the Uffizi Gallery, and we didn’t want to miss it in any case.

The Uffizi has a very nice gallery in the courtyard formed by the two long and one short wings of the building containing alcoves with statues of famous Florentines.

One of my favorites among these statues was the one of diplomat, humanist and author Niccolò Macchiavelli, who wrote The Prince, a practical treatise on acquiring and keeping political power dedicated to Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici. This is not his only book (one of which was a eight-volume history of Florence), but it is certainly his most famous one.

The book the statue is resting his hand upon has no title, but does have the arms of Machiavelli (Argent a cross between four nails in saltire azure) carved on the spine, though it’s very hard to see in the photo here. (The nails in the arms are, of course, the old-fashioned "cut" nails, sometimes blazoned in English heraldry as "passion nails.")

What in particular attracted me to this statue was the short column upon which Machiavelli is resting the book which he holds in his hand: it’s covered with coats of arms in addition to the symbols of the papacy (the papal tiara and crossed keys) and of Rome (a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus).

What a great display of heraldry! I wonder what it would cost to get a similar bookstand made for my library?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Heraldry for Sale

Stephen F.J. Plowman at the Heraldry Online Blog notes in a post today (February 11, 2011) the livery button of a lady which is for sale on eBay.

You can check out the details of his post at:

And you can find the button itself (at least while it remains on sale) by going to the eBay website and doing a search, as I did, for "livery button".  You should be warned, however.  They have a bunch of different armorial buttons for sale, and you might find yourself tempted to bid on one, or two, or three, ....

("So I hollered up to her and I said, 'Don't look, Ethel!'  But it was too late."  Ray Stevens, The Streak)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Substituting a Coat of Arms for a Logo?

There's an interesting article about a Romanian automaker which has (at least temporarily) placed a large coat of arms over the face of their building in downtown Bucharest.  The article, "Coat of Arms for Țiriac Auto?" can be found on-line at

The author of the article, Ştefan Liuţe, does a good job of parsing the blazon of this particular bit of heraldry, as well as pointing out a couple of potential problems with the depiction.  He does, however, seem to accept some of the various "meanings" that different authors have tried to apply to the colors and charges in a coat of arms.  (It is a fallacy that the colors and charges in heraldry have specific, widely-understood meanings.  More information on this point can be found in the rec.heraldry newsgroup mfaq [most frequently asked questions] on-line at:

And this article may point out an interesting reversal of the trend of corporations dropping coats of arms for a logo.  If Țiriac Auto is indeed going to be substituting a coat of arms for their currently used logo, that's a move I could certainly support!

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twelve

(Part Twelve?!?  Did I mention that there was a lot of heraldy to be found in Florence?)

In our perambulations (now that's a word I don't get to use very often in my everyday conversation!) about the city, I did notice that the de' Medici were not the only family to have their coat of arms "borrowed" and used as a logo.  (For the commercial use of the de' Medici arms, please see my post of January 17, 2001 (Heraldry in Florence, Part Five.)  Oh, no.  Other important families had their heraldry used to sell stuff to the tourists.

In this example, we have the arms of Peruzzi. I noted a very nice example of these canting arms ("pear" in Italian is pera) on the facade of the Duomo in my next-to-last post, being used by the Peruzzi brothers (in Italian, the fratelli Peruzzi) at their restaurant.

At least in this case, unlike the commercial uses I saw of the de' Medici coat, they're claiming to be related to the original owner(s) of the arms.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Eleven

I’m sure that at one time or another you’ve seen one of those fundraising programs where you can “buy a brick” for some construction or other, and for your donation, they’ll carve your name on the brick before it’s put in place, thus marking you forever after as one of the donors.

Well, it seems that this is an older practice than I had previously realized. Along the front steps leading up to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, I found a number of the steps where not only were the names of the individuals carved into their face, but also the coats of arms of those folks.

Now, how cool is that? It makes me wonder if something like this couldn’t be used nowadays, in these trying economic times. Need more money for that underfunded construction project?  Heraldry to the rescue!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Semy of Snowflakes

Today's post is less about heraldry than it is about the weather.  As some of you may already know, the Dallas, Texas area where I live has had some unusual (for Texas) weather lately.  Last weekend, I was out working in the yard in my shirtsleeves.  Then, beginning on Monday, the temperatures started dropping and we got some precipitation: rain turning to sleet and then to ice.  Tuesday morning, the drive in to work was very tricky -- the area doesn't normally get much of this kind of weather, and isn't prepared to handle it very well when it does happen occasionally.  In fact, I most of the way in to work when I got a call that the office where I work would be closed that day.  Since I was already most of the way there, I just kept going and spent the day at work, though I did leave early.  Wednesday, the call that the office was closed came early enough that I hadn't left home yet, so I stayed home.  Yesterday, Thursday, the office opened late, so I made the drive in.  All this time the temperature had not gotten above freezing, so there was still a lot of ice on the roads.  Although the office closed early, I got home about the same time as I usually do under normal conditions.  (This meant that my normal 35-45 minute commute took two hours!)  And when I went to bed last night, they were predicting "some" snow.  And when I got up this morning and looked out of my home office window, this is what I saw ....

See that white stuff showing through the window on the branches of the oak tree out there?  Here, let me show you a closer shot so that you can get the full effect.

This is what my backyard looks like today.  Apparently it's pretty cold out there, too.  (Well, it's not predicted to get above freezing until tomorrow.)  As a semi-heraldic example, here's what I'm blazoning as a "dove close fluffant proper" in the branch of the Japanese maple in the back yard.  I think he's about doubled what his actual size is, hunkering down from the cold.

As Walter Crokite might say, "And that's the way it is, February 4, 2011."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Ten

Of course, you really can’t talk about heraldry in Florence without at some point bringing up the Duomo, the city’s main cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

The façade of the Duomo, done in a combination of white, green and red marble, was designed and added to the building in the 1880s. And what a marvel it is. It’s practically a riot of color with a lot of very impressive carving, and best of all (at least for me) is that it is covered with coats of arms – carved coats, painted coats, carved and painted coats, many with the names of the armigers accompanying them – on, and on, and on.

There are many, many photos of the Duomo on the internet (just do a quick search under “Images” for “Duomo Florence” and you’ll see!), so I’m not going to duplicate all of that work in this blog. But here are a few photographs of some of the arms that I found of especial interest.

This last (and don’t you just love those columns? Wow!) contains the arms of Peruzzi, Azure, six pears slipped and leaved or.  The arms are, as one might suspect, canting, that is, they are a pun on the name.  "Pear" in Italian is pera.