Heraldry >> Composition
Armorial bearings are made up of two elements,
tinctures, which are placed on a
shield whose contour lines can take various shapes. The triangular form,
inherited from medieval shields, is not obligatory, it is simply the most
common. Some arms are inscribed in a circle, an oval, a square, a lozenge
(frequently so in the case of women's arms from the l6th century in England) and
there are even countless arms whose border is in fact the same as that of the
object on which they are placed. If this object is a banner, the trappings of a
horse or a piece of clothing, its border may also form the border of the arms.
Within the shield, tinctures and charges cannot be used or combined at will.
They obey a small number of binding rules of composition. These are the rules
that most clearly distinguish European arms from types of emblem used by other
In Asia, Africa, pre-Columbian America and the Muslim states we may therefore
find at any one time, emblems that more or less closely resemble western arms,
though they are never composed on the basis of a code of strict, unchanging