RAPUNZEL by Andrew Stewart Jamieson

ng. drawing, designing, art, illustration I have studied all of these at art school during my pre BA Foundation course at Salisbury College of Art and continued with some aspects at Reigate School of Art.  Beyond this I have always had varied interests in history, mythology, legends, fantasy art, all things medieval, folk and fairy tales.


page from the Zurich Wappenrolle

In heraldry I have always been drawn to European styles and in particular German, Austrian and Swiss medieval coats of arms. The outlandish crests  and the rather obscure references are to me little short of fantastical. Some of my favourite armorial works from the medieval period, the Zurich Wappenrolle, Conrad Grünenberg’s Armorial and the wonderful register produced for the Brotherhood of St. Christopher am Arlberg all contain to my English eye strange styles and depictions, I adore them. In fact I have painted a few arms from the Arlberg Register in my career. When it came to the movie, “A Knights Tale” it’s designer was also inspired by the Zurich Wappenrolle because most of the heraldry depicted comes from this wonderful armorial. I should add my visit to the city of Rothenburg in Bavaria helped enormously with this idea. The things I saw, the things I photographed there were all stored away for that rainy day when I would paint something a little unusual.

Page from Conrad Grunenberg’s Wappenbuch



Painting by ASJ based on arms in the St. Christopher am Arlberg Register

 I paint heraldry, it has been my life for over 35 years and sometimes I get inspired to paint arms that really have no heraldic significance. They are whimsical but it is not unusual to paint things in the style of a coat of arms. The great German artist Albrecht Durer painted several allegorical coats of arms, they are some of his most famous works. So when I painted “Rapunzel” it was with all these factors in mind. Heraldic art is literal, it says or I should say depicts exactly what it says on the label. Taking a fairy tale and turning it into a coat of arms was for me just an extension of what Albrecht did all those years ago.
So to my painting, The crest is of course the focus, an oddity because in heraldry the shield always takes priority but for this the shield was too constrained a space for my idea and so the lady Rapunzel is in her castle tower with a taller tower behind. She holds her hair and here I was undecided as to if it should fall straight down or be designed otherwise.  In heraldic design things are often exaggerated and stylised and fairy tales are of course highly exaggerated and fantasy none more so that Rapunzel’s golden hair.  Her tower stood amid twisted and gnarled trees in the dark forest and so around her tower I show tree tops, a spikey boundary to her prison.  On the shield is depicted her suitor, the knight who whilst riding through the forest hears her plaintive song and falls in love.  Here I decided to keep more to heraldic convention and depict him as a 15th Century knight on his charger and within the strict rules of blazon.  The white tree to represent the forest and the moon and star against the Azure field indicative of night time. He looks up at the crest as he hears her singing and is bewitched by her voice.

Rapunzel by ASJ

For the helm, I decided on a gold barred helm. These days this is reserved for Royalty only but in medieval times no such distinction was made.  Gold barred helms abound in armorials, plaques and plates of the great Orders of Chivalry.  This particular helm to me looked Germanic in appearance and the gold and bejewelled effect was in keeping with the fairy tale theme.  The mantle was a conscious decision, fur lined, pale blue and gold seemed to me the colours of fantasy, I would like to think that maybe King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the Swan King would have found a place for this coat of arms in his castle of Neuschwanstein.
This was an heraldic fantasy excursion for me but in undertaking it I now have in mind more works in this “Fantastisch Wappen” style.

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