'Interior of the New Church at Delft' with heraldry
Coats of Arms or 'heralds' are personal pictures and symbols that were often painted onto shields
and flags. Originally, they identified what family a person came from when they went into battle.
Later on they became used for all sorts of purposes, for example as seals on documents or purely
for decoration. The Rinck Family herald and that of Rinck's wife Gertrud Von Dallem appear on the
back of the triptych. Rinck's shows an eagle with a ring in its mouth, whilst Gertrud's depicts
three bears. Heraldry was a complicated language, with quite rigid forms and conventions. Some of
The shape of the herald relies upon the shield. It varied throughout the ages, depending on fashion
and usage. Diamond-shaped heralds traditionally mean that the herald belonged to a woman.
This was the name given to the whole background of the shield. It could be just a single colour
or divided into several colours.
The form of the different backgrounds were known in heraldry as 'tinctures'. There were three main
groups of tinctures: the metals, 'Or' (gold) and 'Argent' (silver); the colours, 'Gules' (red),
'Azure' (blue), 'Sable' (black), 'Vert' (green) and 'Purpure' (Purple); and the furs, 'Ermine' (stoat)
and 'Vair' (squirrel).
Any shape, line or image placed on top of the field was called a 'charge'. Dividing lines were the
most common charges. They were known as 'partitions', or if they were different colours they were
called 'ordinaries'. As well as simple lines and crosses, all sorts of animals and plants appeared
in heraldry as charges, from domestic pets to mythical creatures like dragons and unicorns. Natural
colours for animals and plants were deliberately avoided as the heraldic painter tried to make them as
striking and unusual as possible. An Italian heraldic artist, Bartolo Di Sasso Ferrato wrote in 1347,
instructing on how animals should be painted:
'The said animals ought to be depicted according to their noblest act, and also where their strength
is displayed... Draw, therefore, the lion erect stretching out, biting with its mouth, tearing with its
Often the choice of charges could be a pun on the family name, as is the case here where the ring in
the eagle's mouth is a pun on the family name 'Rinck'
Dexter and Sinister
Rather than use the words left and right, heraldry uses 'dexter' and 'sinister' to describe the
position of charges. 'Dexter' refers to the viewer's left and 'sinister' to the viewer's right. In
reality however the words actually mean the opposite, since the position of items upon a herald was
read from the point of view of the knight holding the shield!
A 'Blazon' was like a manual for a particular herald. It was a text so accurate that an artist would
be able to reproduce the coat of arms without having seen it beforehand.
In some heralds, the central shield is held up by figures on either side called 'supporters'. Supporters
could be humans, angels, or mythical half-humans such as mermaids, but were more usually animals like
lions and eagles, or imaginary beasts such as dragons and griffins.
Heraldry also appears in the galleries in the following works:
'Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I' attributed to Nicholas Hilliard
'King Charles II' by Godfrey Kneller
'Interior of the New Church at Delft' by Hendrick Cornelisz
'Elaine' by Sophie Anderson