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In heraldry, variations of the field are any of a number of ways that a field (or a charge) may be covered with a pattern, rather than a flat tincture or a simple division of the field.
Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.
In heraldry, the background of the shield is called the field. The field is usually composed of one or more tinctures or furs. The field may be divided or may consist of a variegated pattern.
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. In French blazon, the ordinaries are called pièces while other charges are called meubles.
Variations of the field of present a particular problem concerning consistent spelling of adjectival endings in English blazons. Because heraldry developed at a time when English clerks wrote in Anglo-Norman French, many terms in English heraldry are of French origin, as is the practice of placing most adjectives after nouns rather than before. A problem arises as to acceptable spellings of French words used in English blazons, especially in the case of adjectival endings, determined in normal French usage by gender and number. It is considered by some heraldic authorities as pedantry to adopt strictly correct linguistic usage for English blazons:
In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb to blazon means to create such a description. The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. This language has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.
In linguistics, an adjective is word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or noun phrase. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun.
A noun is a word that functions as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. However, noun is not a semantic category, so that it cannot be characterized in terms of its meaning. Thus, actions and states of existence can also be expressed by verbs, qualities by adjectives, and places by adverbs. Linguistically, a noun is a member of a large, open part of speech whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.
Cussans (1898) adopted the convention of spelling all French adjectives in the masculine singular, without regard to the gender and number of the nouns they qualify; however, as Cussans admits, the commoner convention is to spell all French adjectives in the feminine singular form, for example: a chief undée and a saltire undée, even though the French nouns chef and sautoir are in fact masculine.
The diminutives of the ordinaries are frequently employed to vary the field.
In heraldry, an ordinary is a simple geometrical figure, bounded by straight lines and running from side to side or top to bottom of the shield. There are also some geometric charges known as subordinaries, which have been given lesser status by some heraldic writers, though most have been in use as long as the traditional ordinaries. Diminutives of ordinaries and some subordinaries are charges of the same shape, though thinner. Most of the ordinaries are theoretically said to occupy one-third of the shield; but this is rarely observed in practice, except when the ordinary is the only charge.
Any of these patterns may be counterchanged by the addition of a division line; for example, barry argent and azure, counterchanged per fess or checquy Or and gules, counterchanged per chevron.
In heraldry, argent is the tincture of silver, and belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals". It is very frequently depicted as white and usually considered interchangeable with it. In engravings and line drawings, regions to be tinctured argent are either left blank, or indicated with the abbreviation ar.
In heraldry, or is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals", or light colours. In engravings and line drawings, it is hatched using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.
In heraldry, gules is the tincture with the colour red. It is one of the class of five dark tinctures called "colours", the others being azure (blue), sable (black), vert (green) and purpure (purple).
When the field is patterned with an even number of horizontal (fesswise) stripes, this is described as barry e.g. of six or eight, usually of a colour and metal specified, e.g. barry of six argent and gules (this implies that the chiefmost piece is argent). More rarely, a barry field can be of two colours or two metals. (The arms of the Kingdom of Hawai'i show a very unusual example of barry of three different tinctures, and there are even more exceptional examples of barry of a single tincture, as in the arms of Kempten on the Zurich roll,. The arms of Eyfelsberg zum Wehr provide a perhaps unique example of barry of four different tinctures that do not repeat. [ dubious ] With ten or more pieces, the field is described as barruly. A field having the appearance of a number of narrow piles throughout issuing from the dexter of sinister flanks is barry pily.
When the field is patterned with an even number of vertical stripes (pallets), the field is described as paly.
When the field is patterned with a series of diagonal stripes (bendlets), running from top-left to bottom-right, the field is described as bendy. In the opposite fashion (top-right to bottom-left) it is bendy sinister; (of skarpes, the diminutive in England of the bend sinister) of chevronels, chevronny. (An unusual example of bendy in which a metal alternates with two colours is in the arms of Dr. Murray Lee Eiland Jr.)
In modern practice the number of pieces is nearly always even. A shield of thirteen vertical stripes, alternating argent and gules, would not be paly of thirteen, argent and gules, but argent, six pallets gules. (This is the lower portion of the shield on the Great Seal of the United States of America. The incorrect blazon is usually used anyway, to preserve the reference to the thirteen original colonies, and this form is occasionally imitated allusively.) One unusual design is described in part as bendy of three though, as each third is again divided, the effect is of a six-part division.
If no number of pieces is specified, it may be left up to the heraldic artist (but is still an even number).
An instance of a fess... paly Sable, Argent, [Bleu] Celeste and Or occurs in the arms of the 158th Quartermaster Battalion of the United States Army,although this is atypical terminology and it could be argued that the fess should be blazoned as "per pale, in dexter per pale Sable and Argent, and in sinister per pale Bleu Celeste and Or".
In the modern arms of the Count of Schwarzburg, the quarters are divided by a cross bendy of three tinctures.
When the shield is divided by lines both palewise and bendwise, with the pieces coloured alternately like a chess board, this is paly-bendy; if the diagonal lines are reversed, paly-bendy sinister;if horizontal rather than vertical lines are used, barry-bendy; and mutatis mutandis, barry-bendy sinister.
A field which seems to be composed of a number of triangular pieces is barry bendy and bendy sinister.
When divided by palewise and fesswise lines into a chequered pattern, the field is chequy. The coat of arms of Croatia Chequy gules and argent is well known.The arms of "Bleichröder, banker to Bismarck," show chequy fimbriated (the chequers being divided by thin lines). The arms of the 85th Air Division (Defense) of the United States Air Force show "a checky grid" on part of the field, though this is to be distinguished from "chequy". The number of chequers is generally indeterminate, though the fess in the arms of Robert Stewart, Lord of Lorn, they are blazoned as being "of four tracts" (in four horizontal rows); and in arms of Toledo, fifteen chequers are specified. The number of vertical rows can also be specified. When a bend or bend sinister, or one of their diminutives, is chequy, the chequers follow the direction of the bend unless otherwise specified. James Parker cites the French term equipolle to mean chequy of nine, though mentions that this is identical to a cross quarter-pierced (strangely, this is blazoned as "a Latin square chequy of nine" in the arms of the Statistical Society of Canada). He also gives the arms of Prospect as an unusual example of chequy, "Chequy in perspective argent and sable"; this must be distinguished from cubes as a charge. Chequy is not "fanciable"; that is, the lines of chequy cannot be modified by lines of partition.
When the shield is divided by both bendwise and bendwise-sinister lines, creating a field of lozenges (again coloured like a chessboard), the result is lozengy. (But generally lozengy is depicted with the lozenges narrower in width than would be bendy bendy-sinister, which at least in theory would be a different field.) A field lozengy must be distinguished from an ordinary such as a bend which is blazoned of one tincture and called "lozengy"; this means that the ordinary is entirely composed of lozenges, touching at their obtuse corners. Such arrangement is better blazoned as lozenges bendwise. (The Royal arms of Bavaria have occasionally been blazoned as lozengy fesswise; that is, with the narrower axis of the component lozenges vertically rather than horizontally oriented. Similarly, Landkreis Erding adopted arms with a chief bendy lozengy,and the arms of the Crofts of Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, England are Bendy lozengy argent and sable. ) In paly bendy the bendwise lines are supposed to be less acute than in plain lozengy. )
Part of the field of the arms of the 544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group of the United States Air Force is lozengy in perspective.
A field fusilly can be very difficult to distinguish from a field lozengy (in early days no clear distinction was made between lozenges and fusils); the fusil is supposed to be proportionately narrower than the lozenge, and the bendwise and bendwise-sinister lines are therefore more steeply sloped.
A field masculy is composed entirely of mascles; that is, lozenges pierced with a lozenge shape – this creates a solid fretwork surface and is to be distinguished from a field fretty.
An extremely rare, possibly unique example of a field rustré - counterchanged rustres - occurs in Canadian heraldry in the arms of R.C. Purdy Chocolates Ltd.
A shield that is divided quarterly and per saltire, forming eight triangular pieces, is gyronny. This is technically a field covered with "gyrons", a rare charge in the form of a wedge, shown individually in the well-known arms of Mortimer. Possibly the best known example is in the arms of the ancient Scottish family of Campbell: Gyronny of eight or and sable, borne most notably by the Duke of Argyll,Chief of the Clan Campbell. The first tincture in the blazon is that of the triangle in dexter chief. (There are apparently very rare examples in which gyronny is of more than two tinctures such as the arms of Origo of Milan: Gyronny, sable, argent, vert, sable, argent, vert, sable, vert.) Gyronny can also have a different number of pieces than eight; for example, Sir William Stokker, Lord Mayor of London, had a field gyronny of six; there may be gyronny of ten or twelve, and the arms of Clackson provide an example of gyronny of sixteen.(There cannot be gyronny of four, as that would be either per saltire or quarterly, or three, as that would be tierced in pairle or tierced in pairle reversed.) While the gyrons of gyronny almost invariably meet in the fess point (the exact centre of the shield) the arms of the University of Zululand are an unusual example of gyronny meeting in the nombril point (a point on the shield midway between the fess point and the base point). Gyronny can be modified by (most of) the lines of partition (there would be exceptions such as dancetty and angled).
The canting arms of Maugiron show Gyronny of six, clearly deemed mal-gironné ("badly gyronny").
Any of the division lines composing the variations of the field above may be blazoned with most of the different line shapes; e.g. paly nebuly of six, Or and sable. One very common use of this is barry wavy azure and argent; this is often used to represent either water or a body of water in general, or the sea in particular, though there are other if less commonly used methods of representing the sea, including in a more naturalistic manner.
When the field (or a charge) is described as semé or semy of a sub-ordinary or other charge, it is depicted as being scattered (literally "seeded") with many copies of that charge. Semé is regarded as part of the fieldand thus within the opening section of the blazon describing the field before the first comma. Thus: Azure semy-de-lis or not Azure, semy-de-lis or. A charge on top would be blazoned: Azure semy-de-lis or, a bend argent.
To avoid confusion with a simple use of a large number of the same charge (e.g. Azure, fifteen fleurs-de-lis Or), the charges semé are ideally depicted cut off at the edge of the field, though in olden depictions this is often not the case. An example of this can be found in the modern Coat of arms of Denmark, which now features three lions among nine hearts, but the ancient arms depicted three leopards on a semy of hearts, the number of which varied and was not fixed at nine until 1819. There are also some exceptions to this, as in the case of some bordures blazoned "semé", which are usually depicted with a discrete number (often eight) of the charge. Thus for example the arms of Jesus College, Cambridge, which despite a blazon of "seme" are invariably depicted with either eight or ten "crowns Golde" on its bordure. A large number (usually eight) of any one charge arranged as if upon an invisible bordure is said to be in orle, an orle being a diminutive band within the bordure.
Most small charges can be depicted as semé, e.g. semé of roses,semé of estoiles, and so forth. In English heraldry, several types of small charges have special terms to refer to their state as semé:
When a field semé is of a metal, the charges strewn on it must be of a tincture (colour), and vice versa, so as not to offend the rule of tincture.
In Cornish heraldry the arms granted to the Hockin family are "Per fesse wavy gules and azure, in chief a lion passant gardant or beneath the feet a musket lying fesswise proper the base semy of fleurs-de-lis confusedly dispersed of the third," alluding to an incident in which the Cornish soldier Thomas Hockin caused the French to scatter.
The 1995-2002 arms of Rogaška Slatina, Slovenia show Vert, semee of disks or decreasing in size from base to chief.
The heraldic furs of the ermine family appear to be semé of the "ermine dots," but they are not counted as such; but fields semy of ermine spots are, as in the coat of Wrexham County Borough Council.
A field or ordinary masoned shows a pattern like that of a brick or ashlar stone wall. This can be "proper" or of a named tincture. The tincture relates to the mortar between the stones or bricks, the latter being argent: a wall of red bricks with white mortar is thus blazoned: gules masoned argent.
The town of Viļāni, Latvia, has part of its field honeycombed.Another example of this is in the arms of Fusagasugá, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
The arms of the Special Troops Battalion of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division of the United States Army has the unique field Per pale Sable and Gules with stylized folds Sanguine, the sinister half of the field symbolizing a warrior's cape.
A field pappellony (French: Papillon, "butterfly") shows a pattern like the wings of a butterfly, though this is categorised as a fur.The number of rows of pappellony are sometimes defined, such as seven in the arms of the Aleberici Family of Bologna. The arms of the French Barons de Châteaubriant (ancient) were: Gules papellony or. The Italian term squamoso and the French écaillé, meaning 'scaly', are similar.
Used in some South-African coats, this means patterned like the markings of a bull or cow. There is at least one example that is more elaborately blazoned.
A field tapissé of wheat is entirely covered (literally "carpeted") by an interlocking stylised pattern looking like a wheat field.
In English heraldry, diapering (covering areas of flat colour with a tracery design when depicting arms) is not considered a variation of the field; it is not specified in blazon, being a decision of the individual artist. A coat depicted with diapering is considered the same as a coat drawn from the same blazon but depicted without diapering.
In French heraldry, diapering is sometimes explicitly blazoned.
A field fretty is composed of bendlets and bendlets-sinister or "scarps", interleaved over one another to give the impression of a trellis. Although almost invariably the bendlets and scarpes are of the same tincture, there is an example in which they are of two different metals.(It is rare for the number of pieces of the fretty to be specified, though this is sometimes done in French blazon.) (The bendlets and bendlets sinister are very rarely other than straight, as in the arms of David Robert Wooten, in which they are raguly.) Objects can be placed in the position of the bendlets and bendlets sinister and described as "fretty of," as in the arms of the Muine Bheag Town Commissioners: "Party per fess or fretty of blackthorn branches leaves proper and ermine, a fess wavy azure". Square fretty is similarly composed of barrulets and pallets.
Trellisé appears in the arms of Luc-Normand Tellier, where it consists of "bendlets, bendlets sinister and barrulets" interlaced.[These are not, strictly speaking, variations of the field, since they are depicted as being on the field rather than in it.]
Diaper is any of a wide range of decorative patterns used in a variety of works of art, such as stained glass, heraldic shields, architecture, and silverwork. Its chief use is in the enlivening of plain surfaces.
Tinctures constitute the limited palette of colours and patterns used in heraldry. The need to define, depict, and correctly blazon the various tinctures is one of the most important aspects of heraldic art and design.
In heraldry, the field (background) of a shield can be divided into more than one area, or subdivision, of different tinctures, usually following the lines of one of the ordinaries and carrying its name. Shields may be divided this way for differencing or for purposes of marshalling, or simply for style. The lines that divide a shield may not always be straight, and there is a system of terminology for describing patterned lines, which is also shared with the heraldic ordinaries. French heraldry takes a different approach in many cases from the one described in this article.
The lines of partition used to divide and vary fields and charges in heraldry are by default straight, but may have many different shapes. Care must sometimes be taken to distinguish these types of lines from the extremely unusual and non-traditional use of lines as charges, and to distinguish these shapes from actual charges, such as "a mount [or triple mount] in base," or, particularly in German heraldry, different kinds of embattled from castle walls.
Ordinaries in heraldry are sometimes embellished with stripes of colour alongside them, have lumps added to them, shown with their edges arciform instead of straight, have their peaks and tops chopped off, pushed up and down out of the usual positions, or even broken apart.
Bleu celeste is a rarely occurring and non-standard tincture in heraldry. This tincture is sometimes also called ciel or simply celeste. It is depicted in a lighter shade than the range of shades of the more traditional tincture azure, which is the standard blue used in heraldry.
In heraldry, a bend is a band or strap running from the upper dexter corner of the shield to the lower sinister. Authorities differ as to how much of the field it should cover, ranging from one-fifth up to one-third. The supposed rule that a bend should occupy a maximum of one-third of the field appears to exclude the possibility of three bends being shown together, but contrary examples exist. Outside heraldry, the term "bend sinister" is sometimes used to imply illegitimacy, though it is almost never true that a bend sinister has this significance, and a "bar sinister" cannot, by its nature, exist.
In heraldry, sable is the tincture black, and belongs to the class of dark tinctures, called "colours". In engravings and line drawings, it is sometimes depicted as a region of crossed horizontal and vertical lines, or else marked with sa. as an abbreviation.
The lozenge in heraldry is a diamond-shaped charge, usually somewhat narrower than it is tall. It is to be distinguished in modern heraldry from the fusil, which is like the lozenge but narrower, though the distinction has not always been as fine and is not always observed even today. A mascle is a voided lozenge—that is, a lozenge with a lozenge-shaped hole in the middle—and the rarer rustre is a lozenge containing a circular hole in the centre. A field covered in a pattern of lozenges is described as lozengy; similar fields of mascles are masculy, and fusils, fusily. In civic heraldry, a lozenge sable is often used in coal-mining communities to represent a lump of coal.
The most basic rule of heraldic design is the rule of tincture: metal should not be put on metal, nor colour on colour. This means that Or and argent may not be placed on each other; nor may any of the colours be placed on another colour. Heraldic furs as well as "proper" are exceptions to the rule of tincture.
Ermine in heraldry is a "fur", a type of tincture, consisting of a white background with a pattern of black shapes representing the winter coat of the stoat. The linings of medieval coronation cloaks and some other garments, usually reserved for use by high-ranking peers and royalty, were made by sewing many ermine furs together to produce a luxurious white fur with patterns of hanging black-tipped tails. Due largely to the association of the ermine fur with the linings of coronation cloaks, crowns and peerage caps, the heraldic tincture of ermine was usually reserved to similar applications in heraldry.
In heraldry, an ordinary componé, compony, gobony or anciently gobonne is composed of a row of panes of alternating tinctures, most often affecting the bordure.
In heraldry, a pile is a charge usually counted as one of the ordinaries. It consists of a wedge emerging from the upper edge of the shield and converging to a point near the base. If it touches the base, it is blazoned throughout.
German heraldry is the tradition and style of heraldic achievements in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays and heraldic descriptions. German heraldic style is one of the four major broad traditions within European heraldry and stands in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late. Together, German and Nordic heraldry are often referred to as German-Nordic heraldry.
In heraldry, a bar is an ordinary consisting of a horizontal band across the shield. If only one bar appears across the middle of the shield, it is termed a fess; if two or more appear, they can only be called bars. Calling the bar a diminutive of the fess is inaccurate, however, because two bars may each be no smaller than a fess. Like the fess, bars too may bear complex lines. The diminutive form of the bar is the barrulet, though these frequently appear in pairs, the pair termed a "bar gemel" rather than "two barrulets".
A number of cross symbols were developed for the purpose of the emerging system of heraldry, which appeared in western Europe in about 1200. This tradition is partly in the use of the Christian cross an emblem from the 11th century, and increasingly during the age of the Crusades. A large number of cross variants were developed in the classical tradition of heraldry during the late medieval and early modern periods. Heraldic crosses are inherited in modern iconographic traditions and are used in numerous national flags.
A roundel is a circular charge in heraldry. Roundels are among the oldest charges used in coats of arms, dating from the start of the age of heraldry in Europe, circa 1200–1215. Roundels are typically a solid colour but may be charged with an item or be any of the furs used in heraldry. Roundels are similar to the annulet, which some heralds would refer to as a false roundel.