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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/67

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Sect. XII.

cealed, and the work is apparently done by leaves or twigs, but in the earliest and purest style this is almost never the case. As a general rule it may be asserted that the best lithie ornaments are those which approach nearest to the grace and pliancy of plants, and that the best vegetable forms are those which most resemble the regularity and symmetry of such as are purely conventional.

Although the Greeks in one or two instances employed human figures to support entablatures or beams, the good taste of such an arrangement is more than questionable. They borrowed it, with the Ionic order, from the Assyrians, with whom the employment of caryatides and animal forms was the rule, not the excejjtion, in contradistinction from the Egyptians, who never adopted this practice.[1] Even the Romans avoided this mistake, and the Gothic architects also as a general rule kept quite clear of it. Whenever they did employ ornamented figures for architectural purposes, they were either monsters, as in gargoyles or griffins; or sometimes, in a spirit of caricature, they used dwarfs or deformities of various sorts; but their sculpture, properly so called, was always provided with a niche or pedestal, where it might have been placed after the building was complete, or from which it might be removed without interfering with the architecture.

XII.—Decorative Color.

Color is one of the most invaluable elements placed at the command of the architect to enable him to give grace or finish to his designs. From its nature it is of coitrse only an accessory, or mere ornament; but there is nothing that enables him to express his meaning so cheaply and easily, and at the same time with such brilliancy and effect. For an interior it is absolutely indispensable; and no apartment can be said to be complete till it has received its finishing touches from the hand of the painter. Whether exteriors ought or ought not to be similarly treated admits of more doubt.

Internally the architect has complete command of the situation; he can suit his design to his colors, or his colors to his design. Walls, roof, floor, furniture, are all at his disposal, and he can shut out any discordant element that would interfere with the desired effect.

Externally this is seldom, if ever the case. A façade that looks brilliant and well in noonday sun may be utterly out of harmony with a cold gray sky, or with the warm glow of a setting sun full upon it;

  1. The Isis-headed or Typhonian capitals cannot be quoted as an exception to this rule: they are affixes, and never appear to be doing the work of the pillar.