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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/68

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36
Part I.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

and unless all other buildings and objects are toned into accordance with it, the effect can seldom be harmonious.

There can be now no reasonable doubt that the Greeks painted their temples both internally and externally, but as a general rule they always placed them on heights where they could only be seen relieved against the sky; and they could depend on an atmosphere of almost uniform, unvarying brightness. Had their temples been placed in groves or valleys, they would probably have given up the attempt, and certainly never would have ventured upon it iu such a climate as ours.

Except in such countries as Egypt and Greece, it must always be a mistake to apply color by merely painting the surface of the building externally; but there are other modes of effecting this which are perfectly legitimate. Colored ornaments may be inlaid in the stone of the wall without interfering with the construction, and so placed may be made more effective and brilliant than the same ornaments would be if carved on relief. Again, string-courses and mouldings of various colored stones or marbles might frequently be employed with better effect than can be obtained in some situations by depth of cutting and boldness of projection. Such a mode of decoration can, however, only be partial; if the whole building is to be colored, it must be done constructively, by using different colored materials, or the effect will never be satisfactory.

In the Middle Ages the Italians carried this mode of decoration to a considerable extent; but in almost all instances it is so evidently a veneer overlying the construction that it fails to please; and a decoration which internally, where construction is of less importance, would excite general admiration, is without meaning on the outside of the same wall.

At the same time it is easy to conceive how polychromy might be carried out successfully, if, for instance, a building were erected, the pillars of which were of red granite or porphyry, the cornices or string-courses of dark colored marbles, and the plain surfaces of lighter kinds, or even of stone. A design so carried out would be infinitely more effective than a similar one executed in matei-ials of only one color, and depending for relief only on varying shadows of daylight. There is, in fact, just the same difficulty in lighting monochromatic buildings as there is with sculpture. A colored painting, on the other hand, requires merely sufficient light, and Avith that expresses its form and meaning far more clearly and easily than when only one color is employed. The task, however, is difficult; so much so, indeed, that there is hardly one single instance known of a complete polychromatic design being successfully carried out anywhere, though often attempted. The other mode of merely inlaying the ornaments in color instead of relieving them by carving as seldom fails.