Thursday, February 11, 2010

#4659: The Fleur-de-lis of Firenze

#4659: Florence, Italy

Another reason to be grateful for the shift in chronology here at &7 is that otherwise y'all wouldn't be casting your eyes on this beauty till the year 2022. And I'll probably be flying around in a spaceship by then, feasting on astronaut ice cream and mourning the death of print, so if it's all the same to you, I'd better give it to you now.

The stylized lilies that help frame today's number are a variation on the fleur-de-lis, the traditional symbol of Florence. Generally, in the city's coat-of-arms you'd see a red lily set against a white background, but here it's been cast into an elegant monochrome. Back in the day, Florence's coat-of-arms was a white lily set on a red background, but when the Medici family took over political power, they reversed the colors to signal the change. (The quest to hybridize a red iris started around then and still keeps many botanists busy.) When Catherine de Medici married King Henry II of France, she brought the lily to Paris, which is how it became known as the fleur-de-lis, one more elegant proof of Steve Martin's claim that those French have a word for everything.

I was first made aware of the fleur-de-lis and its noble associations when I decided, at age six, to go as Joan of Arc for Halloween. My mom gave me some glittery sleeves to replicate chain mail and then painted an elegant gold fleur-de-lis onto a pillowcase, which I then slipped over my head -- clearly full of ridiculous pretensions as well as cravings for candy bars. Not much has changed. Now, of course, you can see the symbol on the helmets of the New Orleans Saints as they crush their heads together, staggering their way toward Super Bowl victory. But I still cast a loving eye back on the memory of that headstrong young girl, slashing her way through the fray with a plastic sword, looking for the last Snickers bar on the block.

6 comments:

designslinger.com said...

Very nice story Arc.

Julie said...

Italy rates highly in the framing business, then? But what on earth could the 4659 with the FdL be indicating?

Therese Cox said...

If you're Joansing for more, designslinger, I got more.

Therese Cox said...

Julie - Yeah, Italy can pretty much knock most other countries out of the park on this count. I wander around that country completely blissed out.

Therese Cox said...

I also do things like take photographs of ornamental sewer caps while everyone else is snapping shots of the Duomo. Hidden treasures are the best.

Julie said...

Yep, hidden treasures rock! I have a coupla hundred caps already. My brothers helped me sort out the lettering on some of them, especially sewer vents and air vents. Now need to work up a post. Probably next week.

The less obvious is the place to wallow.