Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ornament in Dorian Greek buildings

Temple of the Delians, Delos; 19th century pen-and-wash restoration. Image from

¨In the buildings erected by the Dorian Greeks, painting was always employed as a means of ornamentation, internal and external. In the best period of Classic Art, the Greeks did not use coloured marbles in their large buildings. They built them of stone or white marble, coating the monochrome stone with a fine stucco and colouring it; when they used marble they selected white, and coloured its entire surface. Colour, therefore, was one of the most effective means of ornamentation; it served to distinguish the architectural members, and to give the several planes of the structure their due relief. But, -and in this particular the delicacy of Greek genius is manifest, -as it is necessary, especially in such a climate as theirs, to consider the effect of the sun’s light, the Greek artists felt that in a building whose dimensions were never very considerable, greater relative importance should be given either to the vertical or to the horizontal lines: all their mouldings therefore are made in the horizontal members; here they are strongly marked; they are even deeply sunk, in order to obtain sharp shades like strong ink-lines in a drawing; while the vertical members are left bare, or only very slightly moulded. The shafts of the columns are but faintly streaked with shallow flutings, whose only effect is to render their cylindro-conical surface more distinctly apparent. If we examine a Doric Greek temple of the best period, we shall not find a single vertical moulding; all the mouldings are horizontal and very sharply cut. The result of this system was that the surfaces were distinguished by different shades, and that in the general effect the building was banded with strongly marked horizontal shadows, quieting the eye, and clearly separating the various tones of colour. In these temples are very little sculpture; it only appears in the metopes and the tympanums of the pediments; moreover, it is not ornamental sculpture, but represents independent subjects.¨

From Lectures on Architecture. By E. Viollet Le Duc. Translated by arch. Benjamin Buckanall. Boston, 1881

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails