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.......Curiosity Corner .......


The essence of the harpy, half woman half vulture, is its ugliness. Heraldic artists, members of a chivalrous profession, usually find femininity difficult to portray other than beautiful and thus find harpies a challenge, which may be a subtle explanation of why so few of them appear on shields.

a harpy
German herald holding a harpy
This well known picture (left) is of Caspar Sturm, the German Teutschland Herald appointed to his office in 1521. Both the two shields he holds belong to the city of Nuremberg, that to dexter (the left of the picture as the reader views it) being Azure a harpy displayed crowned and vested Or.
In the German language the harpy is a Jungfrauadler, a "maiden eagle", not it seems a vulture. (The sinister shield is blazoned Per pale Or, a double-headed imperial eagle displayed sable, dimidiated with bendy of six Gules and Argent.)
arms of Nuremberg
In classical mythology the harpies were the spirits of the wind when it was especially destructive. Three were named ~ Aello (storm), Celeno (blackness), and Ocypete (rapidity). Homer mentions only one of them, Hesiod two of them, and mediaeval writers describe them as very fierce, gaunt and loathsome, dwelling in filth and stench, contaminating everything within reach. Greek mythology cast them as messengers of divine vengeance, the gods despatching them to punish the evil by snatching away or fouling their food. (The Greek harpyia is a snatcher, which is why the word harpy is used today, not among our readers, of course, but elsewhere, for a rapacious woman.)

Among the names of British families bearing a harpy as a crest are Blackney, Coulter, Morrell, and Trimnell.

The armorial achievement
of the city of Nuremberg

martlet icon
The Martlet featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 1
gryphon icon
The Gryphon (or Griffin) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 2
cockatrice icon
The Cockatrice (and Basilisk) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 3
dragon icon
The Dragon featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 4
The Raven featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 5
The Chimera featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 6
The Pegasus featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 7
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