The Rich History of Rosettes

Posted by Pattern Cut on 11/29/2014 to Architectural & Decor
The Rich History of Rosettes

The rosette used today in design and architecture has quite a rich history. A rosette is a round, stylized flower design, used extensively in sculptural objects from antiquity, appearing in Mesopotamia and used to decorate the funeral stele in Ancient Greece. It was adopted later in Romanesque and Renaissance, and also common in the art of Central Asia, spreading as far as India where it is used as a decorative motif in Greco-Buddhist art.

The rosette derives from the natural shape of the botanical rosette, formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant and visible even after the flowers have withered. The formalized flower motif is often carved in stone or wood to create decorative ornaments for architecture and furniture, and in metalworking, jewelry design and the applied arts to form a decorative border or at the intersection of two materials. Rosette decorations have been used for formal military awards. They are also used to decorate musical instruments, such as around the perimeter of sound holes of guitars.

One of the earliest appearances of the rosette in ancient art is in early fourth millennium BC Egypt. We might question the origin of the rosette images. Consider the discovery of a carved ivory disk from a child's burial at the Late Aurignacian site in Sungir, Russia, dated to about 28,000 years ago. Clearly the rosette has a very old history, dating back to the times of the Cave Paintings of Europe, and the Great Flood, or earlier. Another early Mediterranean occurrence of the rosette design derives from Minoan Crete; for example, the rosette design has been found on the famed Phaistos Disc, recovered from the Phaistos archaeological site in southern Crete.  The Phaistos disk was found in 1903 in a building at the Minoan palace at Hagia Triada. The disk is 16 centimeters in diameter (or 6 inches, approximately the size of the palm of your hand). The exact date of manufacture is uncertain; some archaeologists ascribe it to the 17th century BC. It is made of clay and now is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion. Many regard it as the first example of printing, since the embedded impressions (figures) were placed there by some form of prepared punch. How such symbolic tools were used otherwise is unknown, since similar examples have never been discovered.   The cropped figures that the rosette appears on both sides of the Phaistos Disk, had important symbolic meaning to the person who created it.

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