Emblem Symbol

Emblem Marigold turning to the Sun, Oxburgh hangings. Emblem Marigold turning to the Sun, Oxburgh hangings. Oxburgh Hall.

In the sixteenth century, picture books started to appear in Italy and other European countries depicting often surreal situations with Latin mottos. With this development, people commenced to adopt for themselves or their families an individual image from these illustrations with a suitable Latin motto.

The combination of image and motto became known as a 'symbol' (impresa). Such symbols often had a double meaning, especially when the Latin motto was translated into, for example, French or English, and then made even more cryptic by the motto also being an anagram. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, recognising and solving such emblem symbols was a popular pastime among various literate groups.

The emblem illustrated here is an example of Mary, Queen of Scots. This embroidered octagon from the Oxburgh hangings includes the text non inferiora secutus ('not following lower things'), which Mary had adopted from that of her former sister-in-law, Marguerite of France, before she took the motto Sa viru m'attire.

Source: SWAIN, Margaret (1986). Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, Marlborough: Crowood Press.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4 July 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 11:45