An elliptical or oval shape with a horizontal line at the bottom found inscribed on Egyptian tombs encircling the King or Queen’s name and pertinent symbols. In French a cartouche is a paper powder cartridge, thus named due to the similarity in shape.

In architecture it describes an oval shape featuring a picture – detailed drawing of figures, flora and fauna, a date or an inscription within it, often with scroll work at the sides and surroundings as though holding the oval plaque or tablet in place. In textile design the cartouche is translated either as an all over scroll work wrapping and forming oval shapes, or as a motif of self contained, oval, tablet-like forms placed against a quieter background design.

This form of decoration was very common to baroque architecture, in windows, and in period furniture with ornate carvings and decoration, and as headers to other circular, rectangular, square or oval forms–such as mirrors and sofa and chair backs.

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