Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Foliate Head

The carved image of a head, from whose mouth thrust two tusk-like stems and whose ears, nostrils and eyes also typically sprout foliage. This relatively straightforward version of the FH can be found in many English churches, most often in those from the 14th century. The significance of this form of the FH to Folklore lies primarily in its association with the Jack in the Green, the version of the Green Man whose wickerwork image is paraded in traditional Mayday processions, and who marks the beginning of Spring. Occasionally the FH is composed entirely of carved leaves and other foliage, a rendering which generates a Trompe-L'oeil effect very much like that verbally generated in many fantasy texts to depict Transformations. This version of the FH, which is known as the Tête de Feuilles, is clearly similar to the many heads portrayed, in various series, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, but comes closest to his portrait of the Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus, the Roman vegetation god, who heralds the Seasons.

It seems very clear that the FH has a more than accidental resemblance to the Face of Glory. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.