Thursday, July 09, 2015

Crazy for Cartouches

While reading A Curious Friendship, I was reminded of Rex Whistler's proclivity for cartouches, which he incorporated into his murals, like those he painted for Brook House, above, as well as his myriad illustrations:

See what I mean? The man was mad for cartouches.

Best described as an ornamental frame, the cartouche has been a presence throughout time, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to Baroque architecture and Rococo-style furniture.  From an aesthetic standpoint, the cartouche, with its typically sinuous lines, might look fanciful, but it does seem to serve an important artistic purpose.  When an artist wishes to introduce text or a scene into, say, a drawing, the cartouche provides the artist with the decorative framework to do so, allowing the text or scene to be decoratively, and cohesively, incorporated into the overall work.  This concept is best illustrated in two different Brunschwig & Fils textiles, shown below.  Without their surrounding cartouches, the Chinoiserie scenes of Chinese Leopard Toile and the ocean-faring ships of Clipper Ships would likely look at odds with their surroundings.  But with their frames, these scenes get absorbed into the overall design while still maintaining their distinctive looks.

Gaming table, German, c. 1755-58

Screen by Jacques de Lajoüe, French, c. 1740

Cartouche Design by Jean-François Cuvilliés, 18th century.

Cartouches can be found in textile design, most memorably (to me) in Brunschwig & Fils' Chinese Leopard Toile and Clipper Ships.

The ballroom of Atlanta's Calhoun house has plasterwork topped by a cartouche-motif.

The appliqués on this Schiaparelli dress are reminiscent of cartouches.


  1. Rex Whistler was a genius.

  2. Jennifer the history of the cartouche is fascinating. I had not noticed them in fabric before and the Brunschwig and Fils pattern is gorgeous!

    The Arts by Karena
    Stems Soiree

  3. love the the cartouche + loven that screen.

  4. Cartouches are divine! Do you know about the New Orleans toile? It has fabulous cartouches!

  5. Love cartouche! Thanks for the fabulous post and Blog.

    XOXO Mimi