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Celtic Design

Celtic cultures are becoming more differentiated in modern scholarship as more archeological evidence is uncovered and new methodologies applied to the material culture of these peoples. Within the continuum of artistic objects made throughout a long chronological period, a great variety of motifs were added, or dropped, from the Celtic visual vocabulary.

Shape-shifting and triplism

Punning and metamorphosis


Each Celtic culture deserves its own careful examination to uncover the richness of their artistic world. These few design analyses were created to introduce some of the visual concepts that engaged the Celtic artists. A few unifying themes characterize much, though not all, of Celtic arts.

Visual punning and metamorphosis are common: the eye is tricked into seeing a number of animals or faces if the object is turned or the patterns allowed to dissolve and reform themselves into different configurations. Geometry and numbers are the bedrock of Celtic art. The circle and the number 3 are particularly significant. Underlying all of this art is a deep appreciation of the potential for natural forms--leaves, animals, and faces--to shape the Celtic aesthetic.

Repeating geometrical patterns

Intricate alternating patterns

Variations of the swirl pattern

Design of the Turoe Stone