Drapery is a general word referring to cloths or textiles (Old French draperie, from Late Latin drappus[1]). It may refer to cloth used for decorative purposes – such as around windows – or to the trade of retailing cloth, originally mostly for clothing, formerly conducted by drapers.

In art history, drapery refers to any cloth or textile depicted, which is usually mostly clothing. The schematic depiction of the folds and woven patterns of loose-hanging clothing on the human form, with ancient prototypes, was reimagined as an adjunct to the female form by Greek vase-painters and sculptors of the earliest fifth century and has remained a major source of stylistic formulas in sculpture and painting, even after the Renaissance adoption of tighter-fitting clothing styles. After the Renaissance, large cloths with no very obvious purpose are often used decoratively, especially in portraits in the grand manner; these are also known as draperies.

Fresco of Mithras and the Bull from the mithraeum at Marino, (3rd century CE)

For the Greeks, as Sir Kenneth Clark noted,[2] clinging drapery followed the planes and contours of the bodily form,, emphasizing its twist and stretch: "floating drapery makes visible the line of movement through which it has just passed.... Drapery, by suggesting lines of force, indicates for each action a past and a possible future." Clark contrasted the formalized draperies in the frieze at Olympia with the sculptural frieze figures of the Parthenon, where "it has attained a freedom and an expressive power that have never been equalled except by Leonardo da Vinci". Undraped male figures, Clark observed, "were kept in motion by their flying cloaks."

Gallery of drapery in art


  1. ^ "Perhaps of Celtic origin" OED.
  2. ^ Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form 1956:245ff.

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, / , (especially in statuary and painting)

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Drapery — Dra per*y, n.; pl. {Draperies}. [F. draperie.] 1. The occupation of a draper; cloth making, or dealing in cloth. Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. Cloth, or woolen stuffs in general. [1913 Webster] People who ought to be weighing out grocery or measuring… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • drapery — (n.) early 14c., cloth, textiles, from O.Fr. draperie (12c.) weaving, cloth making, clothes shop, from drap (see DRAPE (Cf. drape) (n.)). From late 14c. as place where cloth is made; cloth market. Meaning stuff with which something is draped is… …   Etymology dictionary

  • drapery — ► NOUN (pl. draperies) ▪ cloth, curtains, or clothing hanging in loose folds. ORIGIN Old French draperie, from drap cloth …   English terms dictionary

  • drapery — [drā′pər ē] n. pl. draperies [ME & OFr draperie: see DRAPE & ERY] 1. Brit. DRY GOODS 2. Brit. the business of a draper 3. a) hangings, covering, or clothing arranged in loose folds …   English World dictionary

  • drapery — draperied, adj. /dray peuh ree/, n., pl. draperies. 1. coverings, hangings, clothing, etc., of fabric, esp. as arranged in loose, graceful folds. 2. Often, draperies. long curtains, usually of heavy fabric and often designed to open and close… …   Universalium

  • drapery — [[t]dre͟ɪpəri[/t]] draperies 1) N UNCOUNT: also N in pl You can refer to cloth, curtains, or clothing hanging in folds as drapery or draperies. In the dining room the draperies create an atmosphere of elegance and luxury. 2) N UNCOUNT: oft N n… …   English dictionary

  • drapery — drap|er|y [ˈdreıpəri] n 1.) [U] cloth arranged in folds ▪ a table covered with drapery 2.) draperies [plural] AmE long heavy curtains 3.) [U] BrE cloth and other goods sold by a draper ▪ a drapery business …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • drapery —    Cloth or a representation of cloth arranged to hang in folds. This may be a curtain or a costume, or fabric used as a cover or as an object arranged as a passage in a composition. Just as the study of various means to representing the human… …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • drapery — UK [ˈdreɪpərɪ] / US [ˈdreɪp(ə)rɪ] noun Word forms drapery : singular drapery plural draperies 1) [countable/uncountable] cloth that hangs somewhere as a decoration 2) a) [uncountable] cloth, and things made from cloth b) [countable/uncountable] a …   English dictionary

  • drapery — noun 1 (C, U) cloth arranged in folds: a casket covered with embroidered silk drapery 2 (U) BrE cloth and other goods sold by a draper; dry goods (2) AmE 3 (U) BrE the trade of selling cloth, curtains, etc …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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