Scrollwork is an element of ornamentation and graphic design using a spiral
In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.-Spiral or helix:...

. The name comes from by the supposed resemblance to the edge-on view of a rolled parchment scroll
Scroll (parchment)
A scroll is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper which has been written, drawn or painted upon for the purpose of transmitting information or using as a decoration.-Structure:...

. "Scrollwork" is today mostly used in popular language for two-dimensional decorative flourishes and arabesques of all kinds, especially those using circular or spiralling shapes. However the term "scroll" is more likely to mean a more regular decorative pattern based on incomplete circles and spirals, often using foliage forms. Such patterns were an esssential element of classical and medieval decoration. Scrollwork (in the popular definition) is most commonly associated with Baroque Architecture
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

, though it saw uses in almost every decorative application, including furniture
Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating and sleeping in beds, to hold objects at a convenient height for work using horizontal surfaces above the ground, or to store things...

, metalwork, porcelain
Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating raw materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between and...

 and engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

. Applications of scrollwork can be seen in the volute
A volute is a spiral scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order, found in the capital of the Ionic column. It was later incorporated into Corinthian order and Composite column capitals...

s at the head of an Ionic column and the carved scroll
Scroll (music)
A scroll is the decoratively carved end of the neck of certain stringed instruments, mainly members of the violin family. The scroll is typically carved in the shape of a volute according to a canonical pattern, although some violins are adorned with carved heads, human and animal. The quality of...

 at the end of the pegbox on members of the violin family
Violin family
The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass....

. It was further extended in Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

 into strapwork
In the history of art and design, the term strapwork refers to a stylised representation in ornament of strips or bands of curling leather, parchment or metal cut into elaborate shapes, with piercings and often interwoven...

, which often terminated in scrolls. Continuous scroll decoration has a far longer history.

Scroll decoration


The use of scrolls in ornament design has been present in human culture since at least the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

. For example, scroll ornamentation has been found in the Palace of Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 at Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 dating to approximately 1800 BC.


Scrollwork is a technique used in cake decorating
Cake decorating
Cake decorating is one of the sugar arts that uses icing or frosting and other edible decorative elements to make otherwise plain cakes more visually interesting...

. "Albeit a bit baroque, scrollwork lends a charmingly antique quality to the sides of a cake."
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