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The Symbolic Literature of the Renaissance

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English: Signs of Honor, Insignia

Authorities: Tesauro, Contile, Ruscelli

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     Tesauro gives examples of insignia such as the crown, scepter and mantle, the bishops ring, the English Order of the Garter. We would include medals for valor certain of which in the English rules of blazon can be added to the coat of arms. Many public offices in European countries during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance carried their own insignia which the holder of that office could display during his term. An obvious example is the mayoral chain. Contile discusses the insegne of the priests of the ancient Egyptians such as the vestments and the mitre (Caldwell 136) and shows how they were passed down via the Old Testament prophets to contemporary Christian priests. This evidenced for him how ‘the world is a symbolic expression of God, in which corporeal forms can hold secret meanings.’

     According to Ruscelli (Caldwell 35) insegni can be of eight types which are different combinations of colors, images and letters. According to Ruscelli, color should not be used to indicate meaning in the device. Ruscelli also says that the insignia is the same as the livrée or livery although later he denies this and in most contexts there is clearly a distinction. Livery is the generic name for the dress of the courtiers and servants which displayed the colors or arms of their lord.  An integral part of the livery in some cases was the badge showing again the dependence of this group of symbolic species on heraldic arms.

     Tesauro also describes yet another species, trophies of war, which are the symbolic recognition of feats of arms and victories at war.

See also: arms, cognizances, devices