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Imprese of Count Nicola da Campobasso

In heraldry, the term imprese (ital. Impresa "company") describes the connection of a symbol with a motto , the motto. Imprints have been since 15./16. Century used as a personal badge, in addition to the family coat of arms of the bearer.


The roots of the Imprese are in the late 14th century. At that time, the Burgundian and French aristocratic families developed the custom of using personal symbols in addition to the respective family coat of arms, combined with a motto or a name. French knights brought fashion to Italy, where it was quickly picked up, further developed and given the generic term Imprese . As early as the 15th century, the custom was widespread among the nobility and the upper middle class in Europe.

In the 16th century there was an extensive literature on imprints. Certain regulations were laid down, numerous new imprints invented and their interpretation discussed. The most important author was the Italian historian Paolo Giovio (1483–1552). In his work Dialogo dell'imprese militari et amorose he established five general rules (“conditioni universali”) for a perfect imprese.

Then she should:

  1. have a balanced relationship between motto and image (“soul and body”);
  2. not be completely incomprehensible, but also not completely unambiguous (“not be so clear that the mob understands”);
  3. a serene, pleasant sight ("which can be made quite vivid by adding stars, suns, moons, fire, water, green trees, mechanical instruments, strange animals and fantastic birds");
  4. do not depict human figures;
  5. contain a concise motto that was not written in the vernacular, but preferably in Latin or French ("so that the meaning is somewhat obscured").

Impresen are one of the sources of emblematics , an art form that emerged in the 16th century. Emblems also consisted of word-image combinations, which, however, were designed according to different rules of form and content than imprints. They should primarily symbolize moralizing , but in any case generally applicable, statements. Impresen, on the other hand, had a strictly individual character. Sometimes they were newly developed for special occasions or for certain undertakings (military campaigns, etc.) - so individual people sometimes used several imprints. The badges were worn on armor , on items of clothing or on headgear, but were also used as marks on buildings, furnishings or books.


The examples of Italian imprints are taken from an anthology published in 1602 by Giovanni Battista Pittoni in Venice : Imprese di diversi principi, duchi, signori e d'altri personaggi et huomi illustri . The actual imprints are surrounded by elaborate decorative frames.


  • Bernhard F. Scholz: Emblem and emblem poetics. Historical and systematic studies (= General Literary Studies - Wuppertaler Schriften. Vol. 3). Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-503-06139-8 .
  • Frank Büttner, Andrea Gottdang: Introduction to Iconography. Ways to interpret image content. CH Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-53579-8 .

Web links

Commons : Imprese  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernhard F. Scholz: Emblem and emblem poetics. 2002, p. 64.