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Pilaster

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1550-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak, carved

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Percy Z. Round

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.536-1925

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 7

Object Type
Pilasters are flattened columns used to decorate a wall or the surface of an object designed in the classical style. This example may have decorated a bed, cupboard, chimney-piece or overmantel. The long rectangular shaft of a pilaster was suited to narrow, vertical decoration, as here. Other forms of decoration included strapwork (which resembles flattened bands of leather) and grotesques composed of small, loosely connected motifs derived from ancient Roman wall painting.

Design
The design shows the influence of northern European engravings. The Nine Muses, the ancient Greek goddesses of the arts, were a popular subject for a series of individual engravings. Pilasters that combine both grotesque masks and female figures appear in the prints of Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau (around 1515-1585) and Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-?1606).

Subjects Depicted
The pilaster is decorated with a figure known as a 'term' - the upper half is human and the legs take the form of a tapering pilaster decorated with a mask. She probably represents Thalia, the muse of comedy and pastoral poetry, and holds a lira da braccio (an early form of violin), an instrument with which Thalia is often represented.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1550-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oak, carved

Dimensions

Height: 58 cm, Width: 11.5 cm, Depth: 8.5 cm

Object history note

Made in England.

Carved oak carytid, given by Percy Z Round
Notes from R.P. 25/5042

One of 2 "carved Elizabethan pilasters" given by Percy Z Round of Hornsey Lane, N6 in 1925

Condition noted on receipt: both chipped.

16/7/25 Minute Paper of H C Smith
describes "two Elizabethan pilasters from an overmantel or back of a bed" as characteristic of the period and useful for circulation.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This was probably once part of the backboard of a bed or a cabinet. It may represent Thalia, the muse of comedy, often shown with a stringed instrument. The detailed carving of face and hands contrasts with the coarse foliage, showing that people in this period loved strong and vigorous design. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Furniture; Woodwork

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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