Strapwork and Arabesques

Low relief carving has been a favored decoration for furniture for centuries, but two complex forms of carved ornament are remarkable in their detail and complexity. Strapwork and arabesques were first introduced to furniture design in the sixteenth century and are a distinctive feature of Elizabethan and Italian and Spanish Renaissance style furniture. Strapwork is a carved surface ornament consisting of narrow bands meant to resemble leather straps. The carving is intricate and delicate, and the bands are folded and intertwined in repetetive geometric patterns. They appear in panels on casework, and on friezes.

Arabesques are derived from the Moorish influence of the Mudejar style of ornamentation, and came to prominence on Spanish Renaissance style furniture. They feature minute, intricate scrollwork of leaves and foliage which encircle human forms, animals, mythological creatures and classical motifs such as urns and columns. Arabesques are so intricate and detailed that they resemble an engraving more than a carving. Arabesques are used to decorate flat surfaces such as panels, casework and tabletops.

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