Sunday, 3 May 2009


An impresa (plural imprese) is a variant of the badge which became particularly popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Pastoureau (in his Traité d'Héraldique, 2 ed., pp. 218-9) places badges in parallel and sometimes opposition to heraldry. The use of figures such as an animal, plant or object, to symbolize an individual or lineage was quite ancient and preceded heraldry (e.g., the broom plant of the Plantagenet); eclipsed by heraldry, it made a come-back in the 14th c. and gained great importance, perhaps as a way to individualize what had become a fairly formal and rigid system.

Starting in the 15th c. the badge was often accompanied by a short motto, and this gave rise to what are called in Italian impresa (plural: imprese), in which a figure called the body of the badge is combined with a motto (in Italian, "word") called the soul, usually the former illustrating the latter, the latter explaining the former, both alluding to the individual who chose them.

In the 17th century, the figures become more and more complex scenes with human figures, depictions of mythological episodes or events. They resemble more and more the allegories commonly found on medals of the 17th and 18th centuries...

hope and anchor, hands grasping anchors like the lady of the lake, look more like signorelli's risen dead

1 comment:

  1. substitution of anchor for excalibur... anchor symbolises 'well grounded hope', tool of salvation and stability, rather than a martial emblem

    Hebrews 6
    That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have the strongest comfort, we who have fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us. 19 Which we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil