- a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four
partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
- 1988, Alan
The Swimming Pool Library, Penguin Books, paperback edition,
- It was a narrow, gravelled island we had to lie on, guarded by
glazed brick chimneys and, running along the sides, a prickly
little gothic fence of iron finials and terracotta
The word quatrefoil etymologically means "four
leaves", and applies to general four-lobed shapes in various
quatrefoil is a representation of a flower with four petals, or a
leaf with four leaflets (such as a four-leaf clover). It is
sometimes shown "slipped", i.e. with an attached stalk. However, it
is not defined as a flower, but called a "foil".
In architecture and traditional Christian
symbolism, a quatrefoil is a symmetrical shape which forms the
overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same
diameter. Two common types of quatrefoil are shown in the first two
images below (click on the images for larger illustrations, and
explanation of the geometry involved):
The quatrefoil enjoyed its peak popularity during
the Gothic Revival and Renaissance
but can still be seen on countless churches and cathedrals today.
It is most commonly found as tracery
, mainly in Gothic
, where a quatrefoil can often be seen at the top
of a Gothic arch, sometimes with stained
on the interior.
In art, the quatrefoil is a type of decorative
framework (mainly used in engraving), consisting of an
architectural quatrefoil combined with a square (just as the
combined with an equilateral triangle), as seen in the image on the
right above. Among the most famous works of art employing the
quatrefoil are bronze panels on the North Doors of the
's equally famous competition entry for the same
doors, The Sacrifice of Isaac
) and "Head of
an Angel" by Piero
MilitaryThe word quatrefoil can also refer to a
four-pointed decoration on the top of a warrant or commissioned
Marine officer's dress and service caps. Tradition tells that the
design was first used on sailing ships so that Marine sharpshooters
in the rigging did not shoot their own officers on the deck.
The quatrefoil is also the national symbol of the
women's fraternity Phi Mu
National Panhellenic Conference
is a symbol of good luck.
- The Artist Blacksmith, Volume 5, Number 4.
- The Artist Blacksmith, Volume 6, Number 1, 2 & 3.
- The Hammers Blow, Volume 6, Number 4.
quatrefoil in German: vierpass