[CR]Re: headbadge history

(Example: Production Builders:Tonard)

The question of the relationship between medieval heraldry and the headbadge is interesting. Many of the headbadges one still sees (and more and more we see just the name of the manufacturer in a marketing move for product recognition) have some vague relation to the original. However, some are pretty authentic and come not only from the first heraldic emblems of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, where they were used in battle like signal flags to distinguish friend from foe, but hark back further than that to the ancient mideast. I have encountered the Bianchi double eagle, for example, among the Byzantine silks that survive from the eighth and ninth centuries. The doubleness of many of these images, or the symmetry of the type one sees in the much-discussed Masi coat-of-arms, comes from the fact they were done on a repeat pattern loom on which it was simply easier to reverse a pattern or half the pattern than design it anew each time. Be that as it may, many of the heraldic signs were encountered by pilgrims and crusaders at the end of the eleventh and twelfth centuries when heraldry became popular in the West. There is a language of heraldry which, when refined beyond their function in armed combat, came to be attached to individuals and to individual families whose genealogy was often inscribed within the quadrants of the heraldic shield. At the end of the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance the emblems or devices, as they were known, sometimes were associated with written mottos such as "Dieu et Mon Droit." As knighthood declined they became increasingly ornamental and ceremonial, to be found on jewelry, china, letter seals, eventually college seals, blazer jackets and other objects seen to distinguist a family or individual. In the middle centuries some, like the double eagle, were adopted by the heirs to the old Roman and Germanic empire, and this must be the way that the double Bianchi eagle showed up again as part of the Bianchi industrial complex that eventually turned to bikes. Many headbadge emblems are invented, fantastical, a composite of disparate elements from the heraldic iconographic store. The Peugeot lion rampant is simply a classical heraldic image, the Rivendell sheep rampant between two bicycle wheels is a wonderful take off. What is fascinating in all of this is that the tradition of the knight was inherited in the nineteenth century by that of the cavalryman; and when bicycles--"little steel fairies" as the French called them--began to replace the horse as a means of getting around, the sign of the knight/chevalier passed to the headbadge. And that is still how we recognize a rider passing us head-on.

Howard Bloch

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