The Italian surname of VIANI was a baptismal name 'the son of Vyvyan'. It was the name of the enchantress of King Arthur's Court, and for that reason became a favourite font name in early times. The name was also borne by a 5th century bishop of Saintes and was popular among the Normans, by whom it was introduced into England. The name has numerous variants which include VIVARINI, VIVIEN, VYVYAN, VIDGEON, VIGEON, VIVANT, FIDKIN, VIENNET, VIANEY and VIENNOTT to name but a few. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. A notable member of the name was Antonio VIVARINI (15th century) the Venetian painter. He first worked in partnership with his brother-in-law Giovanni, and later with his brother Bartolommeo VIVARINI. His paintings were most often of Madonnas and Saints. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular.
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