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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/70

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38
Part I.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

to advantage, without interfering either with the construction or constructive decoration. This was perhaps effected more successfully in the Parthenon than in any other building we are acquainted with. The pediments at either end were noble frames for the exhibition of sculpture, and the metopes were equally appropriate for the purpose; while the plain walls of the cella were admirably adapted for paintings below and for a sculptured frieze above.

The deeply recessed portals of our Gothic cathedrals, their galleries, their niches and pinnacles, were equally appropriate for the exuberant display of this class of sculpture in a less refined or fastidious age; while the mullion-framed windows were admirably adapted for the exhibition of a mode of colored decoration, somewhat barbarous, it must be confessed, but wonderfully brilliant.

The system was carried further in India than in any other country except perhaps Egypt. Probably no Hindu temple was ever erected without being at least intended to be adorned with Phonetic sculpture, and many of them are covered with it from the plinth to the eaves, in strong contrast with the Mahomedan buildings that stand side by side with them, and which are wholly devoid of any attempt at this kind of decoration. The taste of these Hindu sculptures may be questionable, but such as they are they are so used as never to interfere with the architectural effect of the building on which they are employed, but always so as to aid the design irrespective of the story they have to tell. There is probably no instance in which their removal or their absence would not be felt as an injury from an architectural point of view.

It is difficult now to ascertain whether Phonetic painting was used to the same extent as sculpture in ancient times. From its nature it is infinitely more perishable, and a bucket of whitewash will in half an hour obliterate the work of years, and, strange to say, there are ages, both in the East and the West, where men's minds are so attuned that they consider whitewash a more fitting decoration than colored paintings of the most elaborate and artistic character. While this is so we need hardly wonder that our means of forming a distinct opinion on this subject are somewhat limited.

Be this as it may, it is still one of the special privileges of architecture that she is able to attract to herself these Phonetic arts, and one of the greatest merits a building can possess is its affording appropriate places for their display without interfering in any way with the special department of the architect. But it is always necessary to distinguish carefully between what belongs to the province of each art separately. The work of the architect ought to be complete and perfect without either sculpture or painting, and must be judged as if they were absent; but he will not have been entirely successful unless he has provided the means by which the