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Vignette

The term vignette is French and means literally "decoration consisting of grape vines". It is a decorative typographic ornament of varying style and size, used particularly in decorating French books in the 18th century. In general, distinctions are drawn between title-page vignettes, head (fleurons) and tail (culs de lampe) pieces. Engravers such as Charles Eisen, Huber François Gravelot, Jean and Michel Moreau le jeune acquired deserved reputations as masters of the art of vignette engraving with lavish and ingenious designs for flowers, vases, putti and ornaments. Among the most beautiful and aesthetically satisfying examples of the vignette is the 1770 edition of C.J. Dorat's "Les Baisers" featuring vignettes by Charles Eisen. In book illustration, the vignette had appeared by about 1520 in Augsburg und Basel decorating title-pages, placed at the heads of chapters or as the tail-piece in early printed works. The heyday of the vignette was in the 17th and 18th centuries concomitantly with the spread of copperplate engraving. In France Jacques Callot is viewed as a pioneering master of the vignette. In Germany and Switzerland the leading exponents of this art form were F. Oeser, C. Gottlieb Geyer, Salomon Gessner and Johann Wilhelm Meil. The vignette figured prominently in the distinctive and widespread vegetal ornament characteristic of Jugendstil/Art Nouveau.