Hans Vredeman de Vries, 1573. Engraved and printed in Rome.

This print depicts a strapwork cartouche. Strapwork is a type of decoration which mimics the appearance of curled and intertwined bands of a flat material such as leather or sheet metal. A cartouche is an elaborately decorated frame which can contain words, a picture or, as in this print, be left blank.

Strapwork, and special birthday wishes

Happy 272nd Birthday to the Marquis de Sade!

What do you get the man who has everything? And, yes, if anyone ever had everything….

What? Not random Mannerist marginal decoration? Oh. (And this isn’t the greatest strapwork, either. Maybe should have saved the monkeys for him?) 

Illustration, from Giacomo Procacchi, Trincier oder Vorleg-Buch  […] (Leipzig, 1620)

Strapwork, part II

Another example of strapwork. Sorry to disappoint: strapwork sounds much naughtier than what it is. 

From G. P. Harsdörffer, Trincir-Büchlein … (Nuremberg: Paulus Fürsten, 1640). 

The German translations of Procacchi have gorgeous marginal decoration in addition to the instructional plates. I love the strapwork here. Carving is about control, mastery of the body, and making everything into an aesthetic performance, so the carving manuals also are gorgeous productions, too. (Making a lot of leaps here… but someday it will all be in the book. Patience!)

* Art history basics: strapwork is this type of delightful decoration that resembles cut leather and frequently appears in Mannerist interiors and printed materials. See, for example, Rosso Fiorentino’s decorations at Fontainebleau or works by Hans Vredeman de Vries.

Illustration, from the 1620 edition.