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Coat of Arm

European Art, 18th Century, Private Collection
52 x 25 x 65 cm20.5 x 9.8 x 25.6 in

This aristocratic coat of arms carved with great craftsmanship out of marble is made up of elements which, owing to the symbolic purpose of the coat of arms itself, lead us to seek out figurative meanings in each of them. The scallop shell that crowns the entire composition, closing the ideal ellipse in which the entire coat of arms is enshrined, besides being a very fashionable theme in Sicilian Baroque, could refer to the "scallop shell of Saint James", a famous symbol worn by those who'd undertaken a pilgrimage. Beneath the shell there is a galero, a broad-brimmed hat with tasselated strings typically worn by pilgrims: the galero was the precursor of the cardinal's hat, and in this case it is not clear whether the headgear indicates that the family to whom the coat of arms belongs to was particularly dedicated to pilgrimages or whether they could boast descent from a cardinal. Beneath the galero there is an angel with a cherub's face, with curly hair resting on its forehead and wings spread. On the right and left of the cherub there are two scrolling plant motifs, also very common in Baroque decoration, that enclose the coat's main field. In the centre of this field two rampant lions confront each other with a palm tree between them. The palm tree may once again refer to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but it is also a powerful symbol of the Christian religion, for which it stands as a metaphor of martyrdom, as well as victory, ascent, rebirth and immortality. In Italy the palm tree was often used in the coats of arms to represent widowed women. Finally, in coats of arms the lion is always rampant, with its head in profile, its mouth open with tongue sticking out and its tail raised. The lion is clearly a symbol of bravery, strength and nobility.

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