The Origins of the Three Orders & the Importance of the Corinthian Capital

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Vitruvius IV, Chapter 1 The Origins of the Three Orders & the Importance of the Corinthian Capital Vitruvius’s 10 books of architecture is the framework to base architectural principles on. As the last surviving work from the classical period it gave insights into the theories of Greek & Roman architecture. The essay focuses on book IV chapter 1, The Origins of the Three Orders, and the Proportions of the Corinthian Capital. These orders had a significant impact on the Italian renaissance architecture and Vitruvius’s analysis has shown the effect it had on the period. This essay firstly discusses in detail, the effect Vitruvius has, and our understanding of Greek architecture and the lessons he provides today. It will also discuss methods of classifying the classical orders, by the use of history, scale and symbolism. This essay will finally observe the influence Vitruvius had in the development of architecture in the Italian Renaissance Period, by analysing the effects this had on architects & historians. These factors will conclude that Vitruvius shaped the foundations for the Italian Renaissance period. Vitruvius’s work is the vital piece in history, necessary to understanding the origins of the classical Greek order. If it were not for the survival of this work, we would not understand the origins of the classical Greek orders, or the proportions of the Corinthian capital. In this chapter Vitruvius presents the origins of the orders in a simple manner, as if he were talking to the common person. Kruft (1994 p.23) suggests, “Vitruvius was thinking however, of a wider circle of users, and was directly addressing the people for whom houses were built”. He explains each component by referring to its history, symbolism & scale. The principles are evident in the establishment of architecture in the Italian renaissance. Vitruvius explores the history of each column, relating to the existence of Doric & Ionic in classical Greek temples. (Vitruvius. 2009 p.90) writes “the forms of their columns are due to the names of the three orders” He states their names being derived from the heritage of their empires. The first order, Doric, is the preferred style of the Greek mainland, which dates back to the seventh century BC (Hemingway, C 2011). It was perfected in the 5th Ct BC during construction of the Parthenon (Hemingway, C 2011). The second order, Ionic, dates back to the fourth century BC in eastern Greece (Hemingway, C 2011). Hemingway, C 2011 states “the third order known as the Corinthian, was first developed in the late Classical period, but was more common in the Hellenistic and Roman periods”. This gave form to Vitruvius’s classification of the orders & substance to their creation. If not for this account the Italian renaissance would not have had the information required to influence ideas. Each order has distinct symbolic features which separate them. Vitruvius finds the use of these columns as structural & figurative. He uses the equation of a man’s foot in diameter, by the height, to determine the slenderness of the column (Vitruvius. 2009 p.91). This equation gives proportions to symbolise the man, women & maiden, being Doric, Ionic & Corinthian. Vitruvius writes of the story behind the maiden & its resemblance in Callimachus’s design (Vitruvius. 2009 p.92). He then proceeds to describe the proportions of the capitals in an almost artistic manner (Vitruvius. 2009 p.93). Hemingway, C 2011 explains how Ionic capitals have two volutes resting on top of palm leaf ornaments, unlike the Doric order which consists of three simple horizontal bands. In comparison Corinthian capitals have bell shaped echinus decorated with acanthus leaves, spirals and palmettes. With these defining qualities, it is apparent that the theory behind Vitruvius,s ideas is relevant to Italian renaissance Architecture....
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