Sunday, October 17, 2010
CELEBRATING KNIGHTLY by JACQUELINE ERNST
Giving credence to status by proclaiming (heralding) one’s all-important genealogy-based social position was the key to Medieval heraldry. Emblazoned accessories like war shields and yards of embroidered horse trapper depicted on Valentino’s bookplate, reached their height between the 13th and 16th centuries. Blazon, the euphonious language of heraldry, followed strict rules of usage. Enforcing the rule of arms was difficult and, in the case of ex-libris, nearly impossible. Since bookplates were privately commissioned works of art, owners sometimes cheated on their credentials and had themselves depicted a rank or two higher than they really enjoyed. By comparison, brass tomb effigies were generally accurate public portrayals of rank, period dress, engraving technique, and artistic style of the era. However, the brasses were never meant to be portraits of the individuals whose lives and positions they celebrate.
Such memorials were generic engravings turned out by workshops that specialized in glorifying and romanticizing the lives of significant persons. When an effigy was chosen as a commemorative, it would be personalized with specific heraldry associated with the deceased. Learning the elements of armor that defined each historic period, introduced me to the men who wore them. Each had been a respected member of his community. Most were landowners; some were Patrons of the Church. All were armigerous.
Researching their shields of arms as well as paintings of the period, allowed me to add appropriate color to my collected drawings of their military brasses. I also discovered details of their lives and loves. The result is accurate depictions of battle dress used to illustrate a scroll that unfurls to reveal the history of armor and the men who wore it.
As I came to know these gentrified servants of The Crown, a new level of recognition, if not renown, seemed in order. I turned to the Artistamp. Presenting each figure on Faux Postage gave the individuals renewed fame through association with the ubiquitous postage stamp. The Age of Chivalry is once again glorified -- this time in the form of historically correct miniature mailable artworks. The men and their arms are commemorated in a new wood encased scroll celebrating their lives and loves in context.
Jacqueline Ernst is a California artist, historical writer,
and publisher of WINGIN’ IT, a subscription based art ‘zine.
Ernst’s limited edition artist book,
Silent Knights -- 3 Centuries of Armored Effigies
was released October 16, 2010.
A limited edition of 30 full color scrolls, each encased in
a maple and vermilion hardwood castle, are being produced by
The Seat of My Pants Press.
Postoids and text for this article are © Jacqueline Ernst and have been reproduced by written permission of the author.