Monday, September 19, 2011

Have buckets, will travel: one version of the Sforza family crest

Talk about a bit of self-propaganda, but that's what family crest are for, right? This one is packed choc-a-bloc with meaning. Where to begin?...More......

Might as well start with the Who dunnit?: Bona of Savoy and her young son, Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza, at least according to the underlying inscription.

When? The date on the underlying inscription says the 6th Calends of January.... Huh? According to Cappelli's chronology, that means the 27th of January. And the year? MCCCCLXXVII. Huh, again? Roman numbers for 1477 A.D. (A fortified tower built in about a month? Hmmm, that sounds pretty suspect to me...maybe the inscription was made later and given that date for another reason; the Touring Club guide says that--due to the political turmoil--the decoration of the tower languished for a few years...I'd bet until around 1493...keep on reading....)

Where? On the aptly named "Tower of Bona" over the entryway to the secluded area, called "The Little Fortress" ("La Rochetta") of the Sforza Castle. She had the tower built to protect her...duchess...inside an inner part of the castle with her toddling son, the legitimate heir. A fortress within a fortress. Ludovico, her now all powerful brother-in-law, and his court lived in the adjoining palatial part of the castle, and Ludovico kept saying how much better it would be for little Gian Galeazzo Maria to be under HIS regency, instead of hers....

Why? Bona--widowed by the assassination of her husband, Galeazzo Maria, stabbed on the doorsteps of the church of St. Steven on St. Steven's Day (26 December 1476)...because he was too vain to wear the protective mail coat under his beautiful new green silk jacked embroidered with gold...thought it made him look, I'm not kidding...ya' gotta love the guy--was having to fend off power grabs by her dead husband's brothers, one of whom eventually won out: Ludovico il Moro (Ludovico the Moor, because he had dark dark hair).

And, finally, the What? The monstrous serpent swallowing up a poor soul (or the monstrous fish disgorging Jonah...the symbol, by now, was centuries old, and the origins lost; it reputedly dated back to the conquest of a Saracen shield by one of the Visconti ancestors during a Crusade) is from the Visconti crest. The eagle is a symbol of the dukedom, granted to Francesco Sforza--the powerful general-for-hire, who married Bianca Maria Visconti, the bastard-but-legitimized daughter of the last legitimate Visconti duke of Milan, Filippo Maria; the marriage gave Francesco no official claim to command, but was a pretty good pscyhological lever...added to his troops surrounding the city in 1450--by the other rulers in Italy as part of the great peace treaty of Lodi (1454), but which had to wait until the machinations of Francesco's and Bianca Maria's middle son, Ludovico il Moro, to become an imperial reality in 1493 (Ludovico forked over big bucks to the then reigning Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, but had to keep the official recognition of his claim to the title of duke secret because the son of his assassinated brother was still alive...for about a year...until he died mysteriously on the 20th of October, 1494...). The buckets are for the ability to put out the fires of emergencies, while the burning clubs threaten to create just such emergencies and to raise a good welt, or two, in the process. (Not quite the "Speak softly, and carry a big stick" of Teddy Roosevelt, but along similar lines.) Above, the ducal crown flanked by the dates and palm branch of victory on your upper right and, just in case you didn't get it, the laurel branch of victory on your upper left.

I turned the photo into a diagram for needlepoint, or cross-stitch, should you be so handy. See my blog on hand-done needlepoint, Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint Art:

I took this photo with you in mind on Ferragosto, the 15th of August, at about 1:15 P.M.


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