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Corinthian Order


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Classical Order of architecture, the third of the Greek Orders and the fourth of the Roman. Slender and elegant, it consists of a base (usually of the Attic type, often with further enrichment, or a more elaborately moulded variety, called spira) on a plinth; a tall shaft (fluted or plain); a capital (the distinguishing feature, consisting of two rows of acanthus-leaves over the astragal, with caules rising from the acanthus-leaves and sprouting helices or volutes from each calyx with bud) with concave-sided abacus (with chamfered or pointed corners) in the centre of each face of which is a fleuron in the Roman version and sometimes an anthemion or palmette in the Greek; and an entablature, often of great magnificence, with bead-and-reel between fasciae of the architrave, frieze ornamented with continuous sculpture, and cornice with ornate coffers and richly carved modillions.

Supposedly invented by Callimachus, the capital is essentially a bell-like core (campana) from which the acanthus-leaves, caules, helices, etc., sprout, reflecting its origin as vegetation growing from a basket capped with a slab. Among the earliest examples of the Greek Corinthian Order were the three (or possibly only one) at the end of the naos of the temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (c. 429–c.400 bc), but the beautiful capitals of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (334 bc), were among the most elegant ever designed (and probably the first to be used externally): they were much admired and copied after being recorded by Stuart and Revett in The Antiquities of Athens from 1762. The Lysicrates capital is taller than most other examples of the Order, with the shaft fillets terminating in leaf- or tongue-like forms over which is a recessed band (probably once filled with a metal collar), then a row of tongue-like leaves above which is a row of acanthus-leaves between each pair of which is a flower, and finally the exquisite volutes with an anthemion in the centre of each concave face of the moulded abacus. A simpler type of capital, often found in C18 work in Britain, was that of the Tower of the Winds (or Horologium of Andronicus Cyrrhus) in Athens (c.50 bc), consisting of a row of acanthus-leaves then a row of palm-leaves, and finally a square abacus, with no volutes (see capital illustration (h).

Greek column-shafts of this Order were invariably fluted. Not surprisingly, the Order has always been associated with Beauty. Taken as a whole, it was developed by the Romans into an expression of the grandest architectural show.

C. Normand (1852)

Corinthian Order. Greek Corinthian Order from the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates (334bc). (After Normand)

Corinthian Order. Roman Corinthian Order from the Pantheon, Rome, probably recycled from an early C1 temple and re-erected in the early C2. (After Normand)

Subjects: Architecture.


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