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Scrollwork is an element of ornamentation and graphic design featuring spirals, which resemble the edge-on view of a rolled parchment scroll. They were often made using a scroll saw. "Scrollwork" is today mostly used in popular language for two-dimensional decorative flourishes and arabesques of all kinds, especially those with circular or spiralling shapes.
"Scrolls" evolved to be a more regular decorative pattern based on incomplete circles and spirals, often becoming quite organic-looking, embellished with foliage (such as acanthus leaves) and vines, interspersed with other motifs. Such patterns were an essential element of classical and medieval decoration. Scrollwork (in the popular definition) is most commonly associated with Baroque architecture, though it saw uses in almost every decorative application, including furniture, metalwork, porcelain and engraving.
Applications of scrollwork can be seen in the volutes at the head of an Ionic column and the carved scroll at the end of the pegbox on instruments in the violin family (resembling fiddleheads in nature). The scrolls are sometimes so elaborated that they reminisce the tip of a Western crosier.
It was further extended in Mannerism into strapwork, which often terminated in scrolls. Continuous scroll decoration has a far longer history. The use of scrolls in ornament design has been present since at least the Bronze Age. For example, scroll ornamentation has been found in the Palace of Knossos at Minoan Crete dating to approximately 1800 BC.
Anglo-Saxon scroll decoration
- C. Michael Hogan, Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian (20013)
- Rose Levy Beranbaum, 1988, The Cake Bible, p.403-404. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc
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