A friend of mine asked me a question about heraldry and I didn’t know the answer. Here, I am not only passing along that question, but expanding upon it.
If someone is armigerous, but has record of only their arms (no crest and etcetera) is there any standard or accepted practice for drawing an achievement? In other words, with no mantling specified, is it still common to use mantling of the main color and main metal?
What about a crest? If one does not have a crest is there something that can be placed atop the helm strictly for artistic appeal (feathers, or a differing arrangement of the mantling) that would be acceptable?
Or, in this case, would it be more appropriate to execute something more like Terry has chosen to do with much of his artwork (include the arms in a landscape or arrangment of non-heraldic elements)?
France is one country in which large numbers of families possess very old officially granted arms from the Judge-of-Arms of France without a helm, torse, mantling or crest. They display their arms as they were granted without embellishing them.
Scotland is another country where many early families were never granted a crest. Some of these descendants petitioned the Lyon Court for a crest in later matriculations but it was not required to have a crest. In fact, one can still petition the Lord Lyon for a new grant of arms of the shield only.
If one does not have a crest but lives in a country in which one can assume a helm, I suggest the use of a banderolle around the top of the helm. A banderolle is the predecessor to the torse. It is a loosely twisted cloth, that is two or three twists on the top of the helm, with long streaming tails.
like stated above, some countries simply do not use crests nor torse. usually those countries have elaborate shields. take the italian examples. if you notice, non have a crest nor torse nor manteling. yet the shields are complex and often have artistic extras such as angels, dolphins, ferns, laurels and so on. so if no crest is known, just go off that standard, or design your own crest if you wish to have a more german or anglican form.
Actually your question was: if one has a shield of arms without any external paraphernalia known, are there any elements which may be added to the shield by default?
I am afraid that the way in which the question is asked determines certain flawes in the answer.
The previous posters were absolutely correct in mentioning different local practices. Indeed some of them provide personal armigers with highly stereotyped external attributes. Thus one who has a shield may make a "highly probable reconstruction" of some parts of the achievement. However this does not imply full automatism. To add surrounding elements to a shield is always a creative act marked with at least a potential deliberateness.
Therefore I would dare to guess that the question "How to complement the shield with heraldically suitable surrounding?" would meet your needs better. And it really does matter if one is intended to follow English or Irish, Italian or German, Polish or Spanish traditions.