Heraldry on show

You’ll never look at Melbourne’s coat of arms in the same way again after a visit to Emblazon, our latest exhibition at City Gallery.

Designed in 1842, our coat of arms features a sheep, a cow, a spouting whale and a ship, representing the main industries of Melbourne at the time.

Alisa Bunbury, curator of Emblazon, said the exhibition guides visitors through the symbolism and evolution of the coat of arms.

Emblazon explores how the coat of arms has changed, from being a symbol of Melbourne’s bright outlook and future, to its often unnoticed presence around our city,’ Alisa said.

‘The exhibition also provides contemporary responses in newly-commissioned works of art where the focus of the coat of arms shifts to Aboriginal loss, popular culture and the pre-colonial landscape.’

Our coat of arms appears on everything from a spectacular vase gifted to Melbourne by the government of France, to hitching posts, street signs, and Princes Bridge.

Keep an eye out for it around town.

Emblazon: Melbourne’s coat of arms runs until Wednesday 30 January.

To find out more, visit City Gallery.

Did you know
Coats of arms have been tightly regulated by London’s College of Arms for centuries. Unfortunately, someone forgot to seek approval for Melbourne’s. It wasn’t given the okay for almost 100 years, and even then there was a problem.

In the strict language of heraldry, the whale – being a water-based symbol – was in the wrong position, effectively ‘levitating’. In 1970, it was determined that the cow and the whale should swap spots and the Queen formally presented this update during her visit to Melbourne.