Cartouche of the
Pharaoh Khufu

A cartouche, in Egyptian hieroglyphs, is an oblong enclosure with a vertical line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. The Ancient Egyptian word for it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring.

List of all Egyptian Cartouches (

The label cartouche was first applied by Napoleonic soldiers who fancied that the symbol they saw so frequently repeated on the pharaonic ruins they encountered resembled a gun cartridge (cartouche in French). In demotic, the cartouche was reduced to a pair of parentheses and a vertical line.

Italian design for a cartouche frame, 16th century
Italian design for a cartouche frame, 16th century

In Early Modern design, since the early 16th century, a cartouche is a scrolling frame device, derived originally from Italian cartoccia. Such cartouches are characteristically stretched, pierced and scrolling (illustration, left). Another cartouche figures prominently in the title page of Giorgio Vasari's Lives, framing a minor vignette with a device of pierced and scrolling papery cartoccia (see illustration).

Missing image
A cartouche framing device on a London clockmaker's tradecard, ca 1760. Such a "card" (engraved on paper) would be pasted into a clockcase.

The engraved trade card of the London clockmaker Percy Webster (illustration, right) shows a vignette of the shop in a scrolling cartouche frame of Rococo design that is composed entirely of scrolling devices.

In heraldry, a cartouche is an oval-shaped shield, used to display the arms of women as an alternative to the lozenge. It is also often used for the arms of clergy who wish to avoid the military implications of the escutcheon.

In cartography, a cartouche is a decorative emblem on a globe or map usually with information about the manufacturer of the globe or map.

Cartouche was the nickname of Louis Dominique Bourguignon (16931721), a highwayman who terrorized the roads around Paris during the Régence, until the authorities brought him to a bad end.

Cartouche's personal dash and exploits were exploited in ballads and popular prints and have been vividly revived in bodice-rippers and the swashbuckling romance with slapstick comedy of the film Cartouche (1962) by Philippe de Broca, starring Jean Paul Belmondo and the 23-year-old Claudia Cardinale.

de:Hieroglyphenkartusche fr:Cartouche pl:Kartusz


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