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0029 Marco Polo : vol.1
Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 29 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000271
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THE DESCRIPTION OF THE WORLD THE TRUE POLO SHIELD our account what was the true badge of these honoured and valiant gentlemen. "1 RAMUSIO is very emphatic about this shield and though, as has been seen, his information is not always exact I have found no reason to dispute it in this case. The arms quoted on p.19 n.1 just above ( [argent :P] between four pole two and two [sable] a bend azure) were those of the S. Geremia branch early in the fifteenth century. With the arrangement which, when RAMUSIO wrote in 1553, was still visible on the shield said to have been set up by Marco Polo himself on his father's tomb c. 1300, two blazons different from that given by RAMUSIO are found, namely gules on a bend or three pole sable,2 and the same with the bend argent.3 There is, however, nothing, as far as I know, to show that these shields with the field gules even profess to be those of the San Giovanni Grisostomo branch of the family in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The birds pole may be, as YULE thought, jackdaws, but are perhaps more probably choughs, especially as they are sometimes shown or described with red legs and beaks.'


1 R AMUSIO Navig. et Viaggi, II. 1559, Pref. fol. 7v0 : d. 95, p. 587.

In the second (1574) and later editions the words accio the ... cassone and Questa é la ... si conosca were omitted. The second passage may have given offence to the " many other nobles " ; but the omission of the first sentence in 1574 is strange, since the Church of S. Lorenzo was not destroyed till after 159o.

2 Fitzwilliam Museum, MS.3o1, dated I Feb. 1423/4 ; M. BARBARO as above on p. 17 note I. Dr H. BUCHTHAL thinks that in spite of the absence of direct proof this shield is very possibly correct, especially because RAMUSIO's blazon appears in none of the early books of genealogy or heraldry, of which he has consulted more than two hundred. The two references to the arms in the inventory (d. 69) make it clear that the Polo family had a shield early in the 14th century.

3 Venice, Archivio di Stato, Coll. Misc. 925, fol. 226. Other forms are or between four pole sable a bend a&ure, and argent three pole, two and one, sable beaked gutes (Y., I, pp. 7, 8), etc..

4 Brit. Mus. Kings 15o, 3, fol. 252v0 (arms of Pollini, a family which may have been related to Polo—cf. dd. 2, 6a, 18a) ; Y. I. p. 8. Pollo (as the family name was very often written) means a chicken, or the young of any animal or bird. One elderly gentleman at Venice in 1934 was familiar with the name pola, but described a black and yellow water or wading bird ; and one of the attendants in the Natural History Museum in the Fondego dei Turchi at Venice professed to know the name as applied to the though ; but the evidence that the name pola really survived or was understood in Venice seemed to be unsatisfactory. The pela is said in BOERIO's Venetian Dictionary to be the same as tacola or jackdaw (monedula); in Italian dictionaries to be mulacchia or cornacchia. cf. Aristotle De An. Hist., I (= 9). 24 (ed. Teubner p. 381); Dante Paradiso, XXI. 34-39.