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Tripod (left) and H-frame easels


Borrowed from Dutch ezel (donkey; easel), from Middle Dutch esel (donkey), from Proto-West Germanic *asil, from Latin asellus (young ass or small donkey), diminutive of asinus (ass, donkey), ultimately from an unknown source in Asia Minor. Essentially, the stand that a painting is placed on is being likened to a donkey carrying a burden; compare horse (a frame with legs used to support something), as in clotheshorse and sawhorse.



easel (plural easels)

  1. An upright frame, typically on three legs, for displaying or supporting something, such as an artist's canvas.
    • 1702, [Abel] Boyer, “CHEVALET”, in Dictionnaire royal, François et Anglois. Le Francois tiré des dictionnaires de Richelet, Furetiere, Tachard, de l'Academie Françoise, & des Remarques de Vaugelas, Menage & Bouhours. Devisé en deux parties, volume I, The Hague: Chez Adrian Moetjens, Marchand Libraire près la Cour, à la Librairie Françoise, →OCLC:
      Chevalet, (chaſſis de bois ſur lequel les Peintres poſent leurs Tableaux quand ils travaillent) a Painter's Eaſel.
    • 1772 December 10, [Joshua Reynolds], A Discourse, Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy, on the Distribution of Prizes, December 10, 1772, London: Printed by W. Griffin, printer; and sold by T[homas] Davies, bookseller to the Royal Academy, published 1773, →OCLC, page 10:
      His [Raphael's] eaſel works ſtand in a lower degree of eſtimation; for though he continually, till the day of his death, embelliſhed his works more and more with the addition of theſe lower ornaments, which entirely make the merit of ſome; yet he never arrived at ſuch perfection as to make him an object of imitation.
    • 1817 May, “Biographical Sketches of Eminent Painters. George Morland, (Concluded from Our Last.)”, in La Belle Assemblée or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine, Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, volume XV (New Series), number 97, London: Printed by and for John Bell, proprietor of this magazine, and of the Weekly Messenger, Clare-Court, Drury-Lane, published 1 June 1817, →OCLC, page 205, column 2:
      [H]is constant advice to students was to copy nature, and if they wished to draw a tree well, to place their easels in a field, and copy the tree exactly as it stood before them.
    • 1841, Geo[rge] Catlin, “Letter—No. 10. Mandan Village, Upper Missouri.”, in Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. [...] Written During Eight Years' Travel amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America. In 1832, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39. In Two Volumes, with Four Hundred Illustrations, Carefully Engraved from His Original Paintings, London: Published by the author, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly; printed by Tosswill and Myers, 24, Budge Row, →OCLC, page 66:
      [O]ur little craft [a canoe] carried several packs of Indian dresses and other articles, which I had purchased of the Indians; and also my canvass and easel, and our culinary articles, which were few and simple; []
    • 1991 December, Paul Chadwick, “American Christmas [from Within Our Reach]”, in Concrete: Short Stories, 1990–1995, Milwaukie, Or.: Dark Horse Comics, published 1996, →ISBN:
      Three sons … three! And not one sees fit to throw in with the old man. No … we have an easel painter, a stuntman, and a … a …
    • 2024 March 20, Greg Morse, “XP64: the train the [sic]: [that] launched a new style”, in RAIL, number 1005, page 45:
      It would also form part of a new carriage design, which had started out on Swindon drawing office easels two years earlier.

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