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A Tribute to an Unknown Artist

Among the papers of Harry Pirie-Gordon of Buthlaw, the Editor at Burke's Peerage during the late nineteen-thirties, is a beautifully leather-bound, foldout chart of a descent from Heinrich I, Count of Tirol (1180-1202), a descent that leads to Margaret, Queen of James III of Sots, and thus on to a substantial number of those who can claim Scottish ancestry today.

On its first page appear the Count's arms in watercolour and gold leaf. It is impossible for a computer graphic to do its artist full justice, for the delicacy of the brushwork cannot be reproduced satisfactorily, but it is worth publishing here if only to show the proportions and balance, features that students sometimes find difficult to master.
The gold riband binding the panache is painted deep yellow, but all other golden features, including the four hearts pendant from the riband, are of gold leaf ~ the coronet, the rivets on the helm, and the eagle's crown, beak, armbones and claws. This gold leaf has not responded well to the scanner and appears to be shadowed darkly, but we have left it uncorrected rather than to make inadequate attempts at reproducing the rich gleam of the original leaf.
heraldry - Arms of Counts of Tirol
The heavily slashed mantling is as ornate as it can be short of the fatal slope towards the seaweed appearance now justifiably abhorred. The tinctures, Sable doubled Argent, may raise eyebrows, Gules doubled Argent (the principal tinctures of the arms) being the norm today, but in the 12th and 13th centuries (as the Armorial de Gelre, for example, clearly illustrates) the mantling tinctures were more often those of the crest, not of the arms borne on the shield.
heraldry - detail
The folds of the knot and the tails of the riband are reproduced here, as faithfully as we can, in close-up. In the transition to a 72ppi graphic it has lost much of the delicacy, but viewers will appreciate the care given by the artist to the smallest details. The gentle shadowing on the silver side of the mantling is worthy of note also. Readers familiar with "shopping mall heraldry" will understand the essence of this quality.
heraldry - detail
Again, we have to accept the limitations of the computer screen when depicting fine artwork, but even so it is worth looking at the treatment the artist gave to the helm. (As a jousting helm of the 15th century it is very different from the helm worn by the early Counts of Tirol, but most heraldic helms are anachronistic.) The fine brushwork used for the shading gives the helm a pleasing air of three-dimensional solidity.

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© 2001 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates