Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
............................. Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

KOR bl, kor BELL

[Overlapping] corbels in a corbel table
Arcaded corbel table


1. A projecting bracket of stone, brick, wood, metal, etc., which supports a cornice, arch, or oriel

2. An overlapping arrangement of bricks or stones [overlapping corbels] in which each course extends farther out from the vertical of the wall than the course below. Usually supports a cornice or overhanging member. Example: Right illustration above.

French: "corbel" = a raven; hence, a beak-like projection

A type of bracket.

A corbel is a solid piece of material in the wall, whereas a console is a piece applied to the structure.

Found in almost all styles of architecture

Typical types of corbels: ancone ...  modillion

Figurative/figural corbels: Corbels simply or elaborately carved with human, animal or grotesque faces or bodies. Contrast to gargoyles, which were intended to be waterspouts and which were sometimes used for protection against evil spirits, etc.

Carved foliage: Carved foliage and other ornaments used on corbels resemble those used in the capitals of columns.

Corbel table:   A projecting molded stringcourse supported by a range of corbels.  Sometimes these corbels carry a small arcade under the stringcourse [arcaded corbel table]. Not to be confused with a blind arcade.

Corbel arch:  An archlike structure in which the sides are formed by corbeling;  construction like an arch but composed of masonry courses corbeled until they meet; a structure which spans an opening like an arch by having successive courses of masonry project farther inward as they rise on each side of the gap.

Machicolation: In medieval fortifications, a projecting gallery or parapet supported on corbels having openings through which stones or boiling water could be dropped on an enemy.

A "true arch" uses a keystone, which is tapered from top to bottom. That allows a smooth, round curve. The corbel arch was a predecessor to that.


The corbel was adapted for use in interiors and on furniture, and was popular in Renaissance designs.

CORBEL examples from Buffalo architecture:

CORBEL examples outside of Buffalo:

CORBEL TABLE examples from Buffalo architecture:

CORBEL TABLE examples outside of Buffalo:

Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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