views updated Jun 27 2018

tracery. Arrangement by which panels, screens, vaults, or windows are divided into parts of different shapes or sizes by means of moulded stone bars or ribs, called form-pieces or forms in the medieval period. Early Gothic windows with more than one light did not have bars, but had the flat stone spandrel above the main lights (usually two) pierced with a quatrefoil, roundel, or other figure: this type of tracery is the late-First Pointed plate variety, consisting of a thin flat panel of ashlar pierced, like simple fretwork, with lights (a). Starting with early C13 examples, the flat plate was abandoned, and the large lights were divided by moulded mullions, the section of which continued at the heads of the window-apertures to describe circular and other lights, leaving the spandrels open and divided into small lights of various shapes and sizes: this type of subdivision, termed bartracery, first occurred at Rheims, was introduced to England c.1240, and was one of the most important decorative elements of Gothic architecture, with definite stylistic connotations. The possibilities of bar-tracery helped to create the Rayonnant style of Gothic on the Continent (c.1230–c.1350), so called from the radiating ray-like arrangement of lights in rose-windows. Simple bar-tracery formed patterns of early Middle Pointed Geometrical tracery, consisting of circles and foiled arches, with roughly triangular lights between the major elements: mullions in Geometrical tracery usually had capitals from which the curved bars sprang (b). After the late-C13 Geometrical tracery came Intersecting tracery in which each mullion of the window branched (without capitals) equidistant to the window-head formed of two equal curves meeting at a point: the Intersecting tracery-bars were struck from the same centres as the window-head, with different radii (c). Mullions therefore continued in curved Y-branches (often found in two-light windows of c.1300 and known as Y-tracery) to meet the head of the window-opening, thus describing a series of lozenge-shaped lights: the bars and main arches of the window-opening were subdivided into two or (usually) more main lights, each forming a pointed, lancet-shaped arch. Cusps and other embellishments were often added to Intersecting tracery, which was common around 1300. Curvilinear, Flowing, or Undulating tracery of Second Pointed work (d) dominated C14, when ogees were applied to a basic arrangement derived from the geometry of Intersecting tracery, thus creating elaborate net-like constructions of bars at the tops of windows: this type of tracery is called Reticulated, because it looks like a net, and was commonly found in work of the first half of C14 (e). Curvilinear or Flowing tracery was then developed further and more freely, to exploit the ogee curves and create dagger- or flame-shaped lights called daggers, fish-bladders, and mouchettes: such designs evolved further throughout C15 in Europe, and became known as Flamboyant because of the flame-like forms enclosed by the tracery-bars. From the late C14 England began to develop Perpendicular or Third Pointed tracery, in which the main mullions (often joined by transoms) continued as straight verticals to the undersides of the main window-arch head, with some mullions branching to form subsidiary arches: this system created panel-like lights, and so the tracery became known as Rectilinear or panel-tracery. Later still, in C15 and early C16, window-heads became much flatter four-centred arches, while ever-larger openings (often filling the entire walls between buttresses) were subdivided into panels of lights by means of crenellated transoms, the crenellations really miniature battlements, each panel having a flattened four-centred arch at its top (f ). Other types of tracery include:branch tracery: with ribs that flow from piers or walls into vaults without any interruption of a capital, evolved from intersecting tracery. On the Continent, especially in Central Europe, it means tracery fashioned to resemble tree-branches, as in St Vitus Cathedral, Prague;drop-tracery: pendent tracery unsupported by mullions, often found on tabernacle-work, canopied niches, etc., but also on e.g. the ceilings of the Divinity Schools (finished 1483) and Cathedral (c.1478–1503), Oxford;fan-tracery or fanwork: tracery on the soffit of a vault with ribs radiating like those of a fan, an invention of English Perp., culminating in the ceiling of King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1508–15). Medieval fan-tracery only occurs in England;grid-tracery: with a grid of mullions and transoms, common in late-Gothic and early Renaissance windows, often found in grand Elizabethan and Jacobean houses, e.g. Hardwick Hall, Derbys. (1590–6);Kentish tracery: with barbs or split cusps between the foils (g);stump-tracery: late-Gothic tracery in Central Europe with interpenetrating intertwined bars truncated like stumps, as in Benedikt Ried's Vladislav Hall, Hradčany Castle, Prague (1487–1502).


Gwilt (1903);
W. Papworth (1892);
J. Parker (1850);
Rickman (1848);
Sturgis et al. (1901–2)


views updated May 29 2018

trac·er·y / ˈtrāsərē/ • n. (pl. -er·ies) Archit. ornamental stone openwork, typically in the upper part of a Gothic window. ∎  a delicate branching pattern: a tracery of red veins.DERIVATIVES: trac·er·ied adj.