Pargeting is a traditional English craft of creating ornamental designs on buildings using lime plaster. It was introduced to England by Henry VIII who imported Italian plasterers to decorate Nonsuch Palace with nymphs and goddesses and other mythological creatures.
In Italy this was called ‘stucco’ but in England the same set of skills became highly fashionable as ‘pargeting’, and soon any English plasterer with an artistic eye was decorating their clients’ houses.
Simply to enliven blank plaster walls, patterns were stamped or scratched into the surface of the wet plaster.
Rectangular panels were outlined between each window and door. Each panel was filled with a traditional pattern like basket weave, zigzag, wool skein, sparrow picking or fan.
The most skilled pargeters could create their own designs which they then modelled directly onto the wall using their fingers and a spatula to create designs in high relief which are full of sensuous curves like this rural scene which was added to Sparrowes House, Ipswich in the early 17th century.
Pargeting is most frequently seen on the outside of houses but it can also be found indoors on overmantels and ceilings like this one in Sutherland House, Southwold.