The ABCs of the Decorative Arts: Imbrication

Chiswick House A

Detail of a ceiling at Chiswick House showing an imbricated frieze framing the central figurative panel

Our next stop on the alphabet of the decorative arts is imbrication.  Although this word may be unfamiliar now, you will soon start spotting this decorative feature everywhere.  Imbrication is decorative style featuring overlapping patterns, such as tiles on a roof or scales.  The word comes from the Latin imbricare ‘to cover with tiles.’   The style first appeared in ancient Rome and was revived in the Italian Renaissance.

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Detail of Chiswick House showing an imbricated frieze above the door frame

With the neo-classical revival in 18th century England, imbricated designs became fashionable once again, particularly on architectural features as well as furniture.  Chiswick House features numerous examples of imbrication throughout the interior, and in particular on the ceiling decoration and friezes above the door frames.

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A Pair of George III giltwood demi-lune console tables 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Our exceptional pair of George III giltwood demi-lune console tables feature an imbricated design.

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Detail of a George III giltwood demi-lune console table showing the imbricated frieze 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

The frieze of these tables features a fish-scale, or imbricated, ground with flower heads and fluted panels interspersed.

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A pair of giltwood armchairs attributed to John Linnell 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Archive

This pair of George III giltwood armchairs attributed to John Linnell also features an imbricated design.

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Detail of the imbricated design on the back and legs of a giltwood armchair attributed to John Linnell 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Archive

Both the legs and teh backs feature imbricated details, and this design can be found on other models of similar giltwood chairs attributed to Linnell, including a suite at Castle Howard and a set of six chairs at Harewood House.

Now that the term is in your mind, see if you can spot imbricated designs on furniture, architecture, and other decorative pieces–it appears more often than you think!

One thought on “The ABCs of the Decorative Arts: Imbrication

  1. Pingback: The ABCs of the Decorative Arts: Inigo Jones | The Source

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