1902 Encyclopedia > Heraldry > Tinctures

(Part 3)


Tinctures (in French, émaux) include metals, colours and fur. The Metal are—

Or Yello Topas Sol.

Argen White Pearl Luna.

The Colours—

Azure Blue, azure Sapphire Jupiter.

Gules Red, gueules Ruby Mars.

Purpure Purple pourepre Amethyst Mercury.

Sable Black, sable Diamond Saturn.

Vert Gree, sinople Emerald Venus.

The Furs—

Ermine, Ermines, or Conter-ermine.

Erminois, Erminites, Pean, Vair-en-point, Counter-vair, Potentconter-potent.

Gules is thought to come from the Persian gul, "a rose," but more probably from gula, "the throat." The other terms are French. To the older colours have been added "sanguine" and "tenné" or tawny, a compound of red and yellow. They are almost unknown in English heraldry, and are symbolized, the one by sardonyx and dragon’s tail, and the other by jacinth and dragon’s head. The blazoning by precious stones and planets, and even by the virtues, was a foolish fancy of the heraldic writers of the 16th century, and applied to the arms of peers and princess. Gwillim condescends to use it.

A shield is rarely of one tincture only. In the roll of Caerlavrock, however, Sir Eurmenious de la Brette

"La banière eut toute rougeate."

The original bearing of the Gournays of Norfolk seems to have been sable. De Barge of Lorraine bore "azure." The Captal de Buch, who figures in Froissart as a Guyenne knight, bore "or," and Boguet, a Norman knight, bore "argent."

The furs (fig.2) are all supposed to formed of the skins of small animals fastened together. Ermine and vair were long the only furs acknowledge, and even now the rest are not common. Ermine (a) represents the skin of the animal of that name, and is white powdered with black spots.

In vair (b) the skins in shape resemble small escutcheons, the wings representing the forelegs and the point the tail. The fur is that of a sort of squirrel, bluish-grey on the back and white on the belly, and thence called "varus." The skin are arranged alternately argent and azure ; and if of other colours they must be specified. There are varieties of vairs, as vair-en point, where the point of one escutcheon is placed opposite to the base of that below ; counter-vair (h), where those of the same colour are placed base to and point and point. At first the vair was drawn bell shaped (e).

In ermines (c) the field is sable and the spots white, in erminois (d) the field or and the spots sable ; pean (f) is the resembles ermine, save that the two lateral hairs of each spot are red. This fur, however, is seldom if every used in English heraldry. Guillim in blazoning a fur prefixed the word "purfled."

Potent (i) is a variety of vair, and often blazoned as "vair-point." There is also a form of it called "potent-counter-point" (g). Manchester, of the county of Stafford, bore "potent-counter-point, argent and sable, a bend gules." The escutcheons or skins are T-shaped, and resemble a "potence," that is a gallows or a crutch head.

Ermine and vair are used almost to the exclusion of all other furs. Even erminois is very rare.

The dukes of Britanny, earls of Richmond, bore "ermine" (this was the coat of John de Montfort, duke of Britanny, whose widow married Henry IV.) ; Lattin, "per pale argent and sable, a saltire engrailed ermines and ermine ;" Beauchamp (old), "vair, a label gules;" Gresley of Drakelow, vair, ermine and gules ;" Calvert, "play of 6 erminois and pean, a bend engrailed counterchanged."

Of the colours, gules, azure, and sable are by far the most common in early bearings. They contrasted strongly with each other and with the metals. To preserve this contrast, arose the very early and general rule not to place metal upon metal, or colour upon colour. Scott takes the licence of a poet to break this rule in Marmion, whose falcon

"Soar’d sable on an azure field,"

and in Ivanhoe, where the black knight bears "a fetter lock and shakle bolt azure, on a field sable." He pleasantly defended himself by quoting the arms of the kingdom of Jerusalem "argent, a cross potent between four crosses, all or," which thus violates this fundamental canon. The French call such coats "armés à engueris." There are a few other less illustrious but early instances.

Venour, warden of the Fleet, 1480, bore gules on a fess sable, five escallops or, 2, 2, 1.

Leycester of De Tabley ; azure, a fess gules between three fleurs-de-lys or.

Sir Richard de Rokesle, temp. Edward II.: "d’azure, a six lioncels d’argent, a une fesse de gules."

When an object is given of its natural colour it is blazoned as "proper." Thus in the insignia of the order of St George and St Michael we have "the archangel encourtering Satan, all proper;" though the German family of Teufel displays a teufel or devil gules. A very striking contrast of colour is produced by a process called "counterchanging," where a shield is divided between two-colours, and a charge placed over the dividing line is also divided between the same colours transposed.

Chetwode of Chetwode : quarterly, argent and gules, four crosses patée counterchanged.

Peyto of Chesterton: barry of six party per pale dancette, argent and gules counterchanged.

A very convenient practice of representing the tinctures by certain marks and lines arose in the 16th century, and is attributed to Padre Silvestre de Patro Sancto, an Italian. It was devised to allow of the representation of armorial bearings in drawings or engravings where it was inconvenient to colour them. Planché states the earliest known instance of the use of this method in England to be in an engraving of the seals of the regicides attached to the death warrant of Charles I. Sir E. Bysshe in Upton, 1654, gives a representation of these marks. Or (fig. 3) is represented by hatched points ; silver is plain ; azure is represented by horizontal lines, gules by vertical lines ; those for purpose are drawn diagonally from sinister to dexter, and those for vent from dexter to sinister. For sable, the lines are vertical and horizontal ; for sanguine, diagonal, or in saltire, from right to left and left to right, a compound of purpure and vert; and for tenné, diagonal from sinister to dexter, and horizontal, a compound of purpure and azure.

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