Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Is An "Improvement" Not Necessarily An Improvement?


I ran across an article on the internet recently that talked about graphic designer Vladan Pavlovic and his proposed a new visual identity for the Republic of Serbia. He wanted to explore how a new visual identity could change the perception people have of Serbia, both at home and abroad, and that would present the country as one of "peace, democracy and tolerance". I don't know that I'd go that far in describing it, but it's a well-done design, simple, clear, and readily recognizable. Indeed, Pavlovic claims his proposed design (for arms and banner) abides by the five principles of good flag design as outlined by the North American Vexillological Association, which advises that the pattern should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.

So far, so good. But, then he also revised the coat of arms (dating to 1931, below) for the city of Belgrade.


Pavlovic's design reduces the number of elements in the coat of arms, which centers on the city's Kalemegdan fortress, with lines beneath symbolising the intersecting Danube and Sava rivers, and also reduces the number of colors to just two - eliminating the red ground used to symbolise blood spilled in battle over the course of the city's history, because he believes it has strong "negative associations".


I can understand the reasons behind his proposed redesign, and it certainly does simplify the (already not terribly complex) arms. But my first impression, not mitigated by further review, of his design always comes back to this:


No, they're really not all that much alike. And yet, I cannot see his proposed design without thinking of this last one.

Anyway, it's an interesting article, and I recommend it to you for further details and greater elucidation of his proposed designs for Serbia and for Belgrade there. It can be found on the website of de zeen magazine at https://www.dezeen.com/2017/08/23/vladan-pavlovic-gives-serbia-minimal-rebrand-emphasises-peace-tolerance-graphic-design/

Monday, September 18, 2017

21st Century Attributed Arms


It's funny, sometimes, how you'll see something and it will just make a connection in your mind to something that you hadn't thought about much before.

In this specific case, it had been pointed out to me that one of the on-line tee shirt shops was offering a couple of heraldry-like designs for a currently-popular cable TV series. So I went out to look to see what they had, and then it struck me. These are what we call "attributed arms!"

Attributed arms, coats of arms designed and "attributed"  or ascribed to an individual who lived before the age of heraldry, or who may not have ever been real at all, have a long history in armorials. For example:

Charlemagne


King Arthur


King David


Prester John


Even Jesus Christ


And the Three Magi, or Wise Men, who visited the infant Jesus have coats of arms ascribed to them.



I don't know why, all of a sudden, this time it forcefully struck me that these new, 21st Century designs could also be considered to be attributed arms, but it did.

So what were the designs that caused this epiphany? Qwertee's offerings of tee shirts bearing heraldic designs for two of the houses in HBO's series Game of Thrones:

House Targaryen, and


House Stark


I wonder if the designer/artist has any idea he/she is following a centuries-long tradition of creating arms for people and entities who didn't, for whatever reason, have heraldry of their own?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

To Whom Do These Arms Belong?


It's always interesting, visiting an art and/or antique store I've never been to before, because you just never know what you're going to find.

We've been looking lately for a painting or other art piece to go over the television in the living room. We're taking our time with it, because whatever we get we're going to be looking at for a long time. But our tastes are pretty similar, and we're pretty sure that when we see "it," we'll know.

In the process of that search, we went to an antiques store we'd never been to before. We didn't find the art that we were looking for, but we did find this:


It's clearly a large (I'm afraid a little too large to do well in our living room, but we were a little tempted by it anyway) memorial board. We were told that it came from a French church, but there wasn't a lot more they could tell us about it besides the (hefty) price.

I thought to myself that, given that it appears to be the shields of a husband and wife who are pretty clearly of the nobility, it shouldn't be all that hard to track down whom this board memorializes. It turns out, I was only partially correct.

The coronet appears to be that of a baron of The Netherlands. The supporters are two griffins or, armed and langued gules. The motto is Crux decus spes (Cross honor hope). (A slightly different motto, Crux decus et spes, was borne by Gerard du Demaine, per the Dictionnaire Des Devises Historiques Et Héraldiques, Vol 1.) The date of death at the bottom is 12 November 1885.

The wife's arms were actually as easy to track down as I thought the entire achievement would be. They are found in Rietstap's Armorial Général as:

Draeck (de) Anvers, Gand - (Barons, 18 mai 1782. M[aison]. ét[einte].). Écartelé: aux 1 et 4, d'azur, à un dragon ailé et écaillé d'or (de Draeck); aux 2 et 3, d'argent, à trois chevrons de gueules (de Wesele dit Sompecqui). Cimier le dragon. Supports deux dragons ailés et écaillés d'or lampassés de gueules.

My attempt at a translation into English makes it: Draeck (de)  Antwerp, Ghent (Barons, 18 May 1782. [Literally, House off. I assume that means the de Draeck line had died out by the late 1800s.] Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure a dragon [which the English would blazon a wyvern] winged and scaled or (de Draeck); 2 and 3, Argent three chevrons gules (de Wesele known as Sompecqui). Crest: A dragon as in the arms. Supporters: Two dragons winged and scaled or langued gules.

And the arms appear in Rolland and Rolland's Illustrations to the Armorial Général:


But I was striking out completely on the husband's arms. Oh, Rietstap had plenty of quarterly arms with a gold rampant lion on a blue field in the first and fourth quarters, as here, but the other quarters were completely different from these. Riestap has only three entries for a red field with six white billets:

Esmez (Bretagne) De gueules, à six billettes d'argent.
Mauger (Normandie) De gueules, à six billettes d'argent.
Périchou de Kerversau (Bretagne) De gueules, à six billettes d'argent.

Not all that helpful, especially since the three entries are from Brittany and Normandy, on the west side of France, where the other identified arms, and the coronet, seem to indicate an origin in the Low Countries.

After asking on-line among some heraldry enthusiasts if anyone had any idea on who these arms could belong to, our friend Luc Duerloo provided an identification for the inescutcheon on the husband's arms, de Bousies, a Belgian noble family. (He also thinks the entire achievement looks Belgian.)

Here's an image of de Bousies, also as an escutcheon of pretence on a quarterly coat of arms (though, alas, an entirely different coat from the arms on the memorial board), from the Wapenboek van de Belgische Adel by Luc Duerloo and Paul Janssens. (It's a great book, basically an illustrated ordinary of Belgian arms, with a names list at the back. It's also cool that I know one of the authors personally. It's also a very thick book; I'm pretty sure it about doubled the weight of my suitcase when bringing it back to the States from where I purchased it in Europe.)


So there you have it. We've managed to identify two of the three shields on this memorial board. Unfortunately, the one so far been identified is the husband's arms, and that makes researching the rest of the family a lot more difficult. What little I've been able to find on de Draeck women has them marrying men who bear different coats of arms from the one here.

So if you think you might know to whom these arms belong, I'd love to hear your thoughts, because I've gone just about as far as I can in identifying them, and I'd really like to know more.

And, of course, if you have the room at your place (and a few thousand dollars laying about the house just waiting to be spent) for this memorial board, let me know and I'll tell you where this heraldic gem is currently hanging out and waiting for the right buyer to come along.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Badges From Two Different Traditions


Parked outside Dumfries House while we were visiting there was a passenger van emblazoned with two different badges.


One of the two badges was, naturally enough, that of Dumfries House:


consisting of a type of breast star often used by knightly orders (here, a style often seen on breast stars of the Order of the Thistle), with the initials D and H (for Dumfries House, obviously) and surmounted in chief by a very exuberant thistle (hello, Scotland).

The other badge was that of Al-Maktoum College of Dundee:


The van being, as it clearly notes below the College badge:

Sponsored by
Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education

The badge is an interesting, somewhat modernized take on traditional Islamic design, and consists of a voided octagon interlaced with a series of eight loops, pointed and arranged to create an eight-pointed star in the center.

Both badges were interesting, especially when juxtaposed onto a single item (the van) as they were.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Banners at Dumfries House


Above the main entrance to Dumfries House, atop the pediment with the achievement of arms that I discussed in my last post, is a flagpole with the Dumfries House Flag.


A sign nearby entitled "Dumfries House Flag Protocol" discusses the three flags which are flown at various times by the House.

Of the other two, one is the Standard for Scotland of Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, and is flown whenever he is in residence at the House. The third is the Union Flag (I appreciate them not calling it the "Union Jack") which is flown on certain birthdays.

At all other times, the flag flown on the House, as it was the day we were there, is the Dumfries House Flag. Of this flag, we are informed:

[The Dumfries House Flag] incorporates the Coat of Arms granted to the Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust in 2015. The Arms contain reference to those principally involve in the evolution of the estate. The two blue lions on white background come from the Crichton Arms and commemorate the original purchase of the estate by William Crichton, 1st Earl of Dumfries, in 1635. The two red lions allude to the Royal Arms of Scotland and the intervention of the Duke of Rothesay to save the house. The black saltire and gold lozenge allude to the Arms of William Crichton-Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, who commissioned the Adam brothers to build the house.

I'm not certain why the House flag was give a black saltire instead of a blue one; of all of the Dalrymple arms that I can find with this motif, it is always a saltire azure.

Be that as it may, there you have it, a whole lot of history all wrapped up into a single heraldic flag, flying proudly above the Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Pleasant "Little" House in Scotland's Countryside


The next stop on our heraldic tour of Scotland was Dumfries House in Ayrshire. Alas, I'm not going to be able to share with any but a very little of the heraldry we saw there, as the House is owned by the National Trust and does not allow photographs to be taken inside. Still, I'll do what I can.

William Dalrymple-Crichton, 5th Earl of Dumfries KT (1699-1768) inherited the title of Earl of Dumfries in 1742, upon the death of his mother Penelope Crichton, 4th Countess of Dumfries. He commissioned Robert Adam, and John Adam to build Dumfries House, which was completed between 1754 and 1759.

Naturally, as the home of a Scottish peer, there is an impressive achievement of arms displayed on the pediment over the main entrance.


You should click on the image above to go to the large-size picture, so as to see all of the detail involved in this display of heraldry.

The arms are: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Argent a lion rampant azure armed and langued gules (Crichton); 2, Or on a saltire azure nine lozenges or (Dalrymple); 3, Azure three water bougets or (Crichton). The arms are surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Thistle and surmounted by the coronet of an Earl. The supporters are: Two lions rampant crowned. Motto: God send grace (Creighton, per Fairbairn’s Crests).

The circle on the left (dexter) is the star of the Order of the Thistle within a ribband of the order and surmounted by the coronet of an Earl, while the one on the right is the crest (A wyvern statant breathing flames wings addorsed) within a ribband of the order and surmounted by the coronet of an Earl.

The crest can also be found elsewhere as a decorative element on some of the drainpipes on the exterior of the House:


But I digress. To return to the pediment: the foliage on each side of the central achievement and on both ends is a combination of roses and thistles, slipped and leaved.

I'm pretty sure they wanted to make sure that everyone knew whose house this was, so as not to get it confused with any of the other great houses in the county. Or as a way of marking their territory.

It is, in any case, as Charles Burnett and Mark Dennis put it so well in their book Scotland's Heraldic Heritage: The Lion Rejoicing, "an exuberant union of family, art and history."