18 June 2010

[art] A Duke's Coat Of Arms

2442.
The recent SCA Known World Heraldic Symposium was productive for me in a great number of personal ways, not the least of which the chance to test myself by producing some well-received coat-of-arms submssions proposals.

One I don't have with me involves four lions with a stripe across the middle with fleurs-de-lis on, which I'll render and post subsequently.

This design is an updating of a local SCA Duke's arms of which I'm rather pleased with. Here it is, uncolored:



The colors of the top stripe-that clear area at the top of the diagram, and that bouncing beast in the the middle, are black. The drops are red. I'm not clear on what color the coronet will be, so I won't speculate at this point.

In blazon, the technical language used to describe the emblazon (or the diagram you see above) so that it can be faithfully reproduced by heraldic artists and scribes for the sake of rolls-of-arms and tabards, craft projects, and such, you would say that as follows;

Argent, goutty de sang, an antelope rampant sable, gorged of a ducal coronet and chain [whatever color], a chief sable.
I can hear eyes glazing over already. Herewith, a quick explanation. In blazon, the SCA uses jargon derived from actual real-world coats of arms with an eye toward making it as much like real-world heraldry as possible. The terms of northwestern European blazon, where the SCA based its heraldic tradition, are derived ultimately from Norman French, which is why the terms have a French sound to them.

The description is built up in layers, starting from the background (which can be any shape; we use the "ironing-board-iron" (or, heater) escutcheon as a forwarding of visual tradition) to the last thing.
  1. Argent, the background color. Silver. Depicted as white.
  2. Goutty, the blazon term for a drop is goute. A field scattered with drops is termed goutty. There is a specific term for scattering objects across a field, that's semy, but one doesn't say semy of goutes, we say goutty.
  3. de Sang. There are a number of goutes in heraldry, whose terms are derived from what they resemble in a natural state. Red drops resemble blood, thus, a goute de sang is, literally, a drop of blood. It's a Herald's way to get romantic about it all.
  4. An Antelope Rampant. Here's where it gets twilight-zoney if you don't know anything about coats-of-arms. The beasties on a shield are not only very stylized, they frequently have nothing to do with anything in nature. That dancing beast is heraldic "antelope". it has a stag's body and legs, tufts of hair at the angles like a goat, long, serrated horns, and a kind of grotesque muzzle with a horn at the nose, and a long, ropy tail like a lion's. If you wanted a real antelope, like the ones you see in reality, you'd say a natural antelope. Rampant means the way that beast is standing, and is a precise term: rearing up, one leg down, the other three flailing to strike.
  5. Sable. Describes the color of the antelope. You'll notice, in blazon, things tend to get grouped according to color, and when you're announcing a color, it's a signal to the reader you're going to go on to describe a new thing. And, in blazon, sable means black.
  6. Gorged of a ducal coronet.  Another theme you'll see from time to time is putting something around the neck of something else. This is called gorging, and results in the thing being gorged looking like it's wearing the gorging-thing as a collar. in this case, it's a Ducal coronet, which is specifically a coronet with points resembling strawberry leaves. Strawberry leaves? Yes, it's a thing which has fascinated me for a long time too. Strawberries grow everywhere; it's not like they're necessarily noble. I don't know the color of the coronet and I'm not too sure of the blazon of that chain at this point.
  7. A chief, Sable. The name for that stripe across the top is chief, and as a charge (or, something placed in the drawing) since it occupies the region of the field (also called the chief) completely, it takes on the name of that region.
And our blazon is done. I'm remiss; I promised a short explanation. And if you didn't understand all the terms I threw about, it's okay; my intention was to demonstrate how the language describes the arms to one who understands it and who can translate it into a design exactly without ever seeing the diagram - which I could easily have done if I only had the textual discription.

If you have some interest in modern heraldry as the SCA practices it (and "practice" seems a want term indeed for something we take quite seriously, believe me) then the following two sites would be of interest:
  • An Tir Heralds, the site devoted to Heraldry and Scribal arts in this region of the SCA world we call the Kingdom of An Tir (the Pacific Northwest) is at http://antirheralds.org
  • The Society for Creative Anachronism's Heraldry Page, connecting you to the SCA at large, is http://heraldry.sca.org
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3 comments:

Sam Sall said...

Facinating ,I learned something today...
Thanks

Anklebuster said...

Awesome. I like learning about different ontologies (I think I'm using the word correctly) to describe a subset of human knowledge.

In a wild coincidence, my logo designer recently created a crest for my latest project. I had gone to one of those free online "make your own crest" websites and had a lot of fun, without knowing a thing about what the symbolism is :)

Cheers,

Mitch

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