In the Crivelli painting "The Virgin and Child with Infants Bearing Symbols of the Passion" there is (at the right, under a bare tree) an injured (?) knight with a red shield inscribed with the letters "RNIO". (Or maybe something else in place of the "I".) Here is an image with that particular detail of the painting:

detail from "The Virgin and Child with Infants Bearing Symbols of the Passion"

What do those letters mean? I assume they're an acronym of some kind?

  • 1
    The I seems a bit...squiggly. Are we sure it's not Rho, Nu, Ksi, Omicron?
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 1:20
  • @Kris - The reason I asked it here (actually, originally at Hermeneutics) is because this particular painting is not just on an obvious Christian theme (Virgin and Child) but is full full full of Christian symbolism. You should read the paper my wife wrote on the symbolism here. Every square inch of this painting is meaningful. But neither of us could find anything on that shield's lettering. Thanks for offering your bounty!
    – davidbak
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 0:23
  • 1
    @davidbak I've been researching this for an answer for over 2 weeks. Even scholars don't know the answer there are at least 2 views on what the letters mean. Would this be acceptable as an answer?
    – hernan43
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 13:11
  • @hernan43 - thanks for the effort! It would surely be an acceptable answer since 2 views > no idea whatsoever, which is what I've got now!
    – davidbak
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 17:38
  • The third letter almost looks like the ancient Greek letter ϟ (koppa).
    – user900
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


There seems to be two views on what the letters "RNIO" mean in the Carlos Crivelli painting. I only have one reference for the answer: Dr. Liliana Leopardi, an expert in Italian Renaissance art, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at Chapman University, who was gracious enough to share her knowledge with me through personal correspondence.

Scholars have been trying to figure out the inscription for quite a long time now. It is thought to be to an inscription that somehow refers to the commissioner's identity. As it happens to be painted on one of a shield.

Scholars are divided on the way that it refers to the commissioner's identity, Dr. Leopardi continues:

It could either be a reference to the name of the commissioner or the initials of a series of words that were meant to be the commissioner's motto.

The answer unfortunately is that scholars simply don't know the answer.


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