The Order In Classical Architecture

Corinthian columns of the Pantheon in Paris

Corinthian columns of the Pantheon in Paris.

In The Stones of Venice, the critic and art historian John Ruskin declared that the Doric and the Corinthian orders were the roots of all European architecture. The Doric style was the basis of all the solid and sculptural Romanesque forms—Norman, Lombard, and Byzantine, while the Corinthian order was the essence of Gothic, Early English, French, German, and Tuscan architecture.

In classical architecture, an order is a style represented by a characteristic design of the column and its entablature.  The entablature is that portion of a building between the capitals of the columns and the roof, including in classical architecture the architrave, frieze, cornices, and pediment.  The entablature and column with base (usually), shaft and capital are decorated and proportioned according to one of the five accepted modes or styles—Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian, or Composite. (See illustrations below.) The simplest is the Tuscan, supposedly derived from the Etruscan-type temple, but the Doric is probably ear­lier in origin and is subdivided into Greek Doric and Roman Doric, the former having no base, as on the Par­thenon and the temples at Paestum.

The Ionic order originated in Asia Minor in the mid 6th century BC. The Ionic capital probably developed out of the earlier Aeolic capital of uncertain origin. (The Aeolic capital has an oblong top supported by two large volutes with a palmette filling the space between.) The Corinthian order was an Athenian invention of  the 5th century BC, but was later modified by the Romans, who provided the prototype for the Renaissance form. The Compos­ite order is a late Roman combination of elements from the Ionic and Cor­inthian orders.

The Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian orders were de­scribed by Vitruvius, and in 1537 Serlio published a book on the orders (coining the term Composite for what had previously been called Italic) which gave to each a range of ex­pressive or symbolic meanings as well as establish­ing the specific details of proportions and embellishments for Renaissance and later architects.

Notes:  A volute is a spiral scroll on a capital. A palmette is a fan-shaped decorative motif resembling a palmated leaf or a panicle of flowers. One type of ancient Greek palmette resembles honeysuckle flowers, another is more like a palm leaf.

Classical Orders

Classical Orders

(The above discussion is based on the descriptions contained in The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Fourth Edition and Arts & Ideas, Eighth Edition.)
Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.
Illustration Credits: The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Fourth Edition.

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