Skip to Content
Today Open today 10–11 members | 11–5 public

Overmantel and Cornice from Great House in Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire

A work made of limewood.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of limewood.


c. 1685


Grinling Gibbons
English, 1648-1721

About this artwork

Flowers in the home made a grand statement in 17th century Northern Europe, where year-round cultivation was difficult and expensive. Influenced by potted plants and live garlands, Anglo-Dutch artists decked luxurious interiors with year-round floral displays sculpted in wood. This fashion was led by sculptor Grinling Gibbons, who devised a technique of carving layers of linden wood in highly naturalistic detail to be applied in rhythmic masses of flowers over doorways and picture frames above fireplaces as overmantels.

This overmantel is from Cassiobury House, the home of the Earls of Essex, where it ornamented a room of proportions similar to the display gallery. The sheet music crowned by a wreath near the center may refer to the room’s original purpose as a cabinet for entertainment; ironically, it notates not a profound composition but instead a simple tune, “Twas Woman Mad Me Love.” This page is taken directly from a popular beginner’s book on playing the recorder, published in London in 1683.

The overmantel has undergone many changes throughout its life, having witnessed numerous renovations and additions to Cassiobury before arriving at the Art Institute in 1926, just prior to the grand home’s demolition. After two years of careful conservation, cleaning, and re-carving of some lost elements, it has been reassembled to better reflect its state at the time of its original installation. The carved basket, which was at one point incorporated into the overmantel, was possibly made for another room or displayed above the chimney breast.


On View, Gallery 214


Applied Arts of Europe


Grinling Gibbons


Overmantel and Cornice from Great House in Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire


England (Artist's nationality)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.





335.3 × 274.3 cm (132 × 108 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of The Antiquarian Society

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

Learn more.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions