This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
The pomp and luxury which had overtaken the nation expressed itself architecturally in the over-luxuriance of carving and ornament, repressed neither by taste, refinement, nor considerations of expense, that very soon became characteristic of Roman architecture. This character quickly evidenced itself throughout all the colonies and dependencies of the Empire, and affected the otherwise local expression of the prevailing architectural style native to the district. It was this tendency that was responsible for the evolution of the Order termed the Composite, which was adapted from the Corinthian form with the sole intention of allowing an excuse for more ornament and carving than even that elaborate Order supplied.
In this decadence, sight was soon lost of all the inherent natural expression embodied in the Greek Orders at the time when the Romans overcame and arrested the progress of Greek civilization; and consequently it soon becomes difficult to trace the growth of the Roman column from either stone or wood beginnings. The column, in attaining to a regularity of type, frequently becomes colorless and flaccid, and has lost much in individuality and character. This gradual vulgarization was attended, however, with an increased surety and facility in the employment of the various compositions of columns and colonnades. The very process of reducing the Orders to a "rule," with its inevitable loss of artistic expression, yet caused them to attain an average that made their use possible-with a certainty of not going far wrong-by individuals of indifferent genius or architectural training.
This gradual degeneration is well exemplified in the cutting of the fluting of the column shafts. Where the Greeks used their best ingenuity in emphasizing, sharpening, and bringing out the raised arris which separates the flu tings of their columns, the Romans, by careless cutting, soon allowed the flutes to become shallow, with the result that the fillet edges were not sharply defined and the entire shaft of the column lost much of its character. At the same time that the carving of the moulding faces loses in character and beauty of detail, it grows more uninteresting, and in fact meaningless, and is used with less discrimination, feeling, and common sense, until the carving is eventually so placed as in most instances to destroy and confuse the meaning of the various moulding outlines, themselves now much debased in type.
Decorative Carved Panel. Festoon from Temple of Vesta, Tivoll,.
Decorative Carved Panel.
Eagle and Wreath from Forum of Trajan, Rome Now in Church of SS. Apostoli, Rome,
PLACE DE LA CONCORDE, PARIS, FRANCE.
Note the Splendid Composition of the Two Ministerial Palaces with their Corinthian Colonnades and Flanking Pavilions (Built 1762-1770), and the Church of the Madeleine (Built 1764-1842) in the Background. The Center of the Square is Taken Up by the Egyptian Obelisk and Two Monumental Fountains.
The Roman moulding sections followed the same course. Starting with the refined Greek outline, they became coarse, and rapidly deteriorated. Where the Greek demanded a fine gradation and sub-tilty of contour, the Roman was satisfied with broad contrasts of black and white, of sunlight and shadow, with little sub-gradation of tone or refinement in outline. The result is easily traceable throughout all Roman architecture. The outline of the echinus moulding of the Greek Doric column, at first imitated by the Romans, soon loses its character, until, in the Colosseum, it is nothing more nor less than a crude quarter-round in section. The volute of the Roman Ionic capital is crude when compared with the refined moulding and more minute working out of its Greek prototype. It was but occasionally that, in the carving of some bit of elaborate detail, the pleasure of the artisan in expressing his skill caused him to produce a design of interest and charm (Fig. 104); but this ornament is almost invariably given a naturalistic treatment, quite at variance with the more decorative and conventional rendering with which the Greeks endowed even the simplest bits of their architectural ornament.
In adopting the Greek Orders, the Romans were evidently much more partial to the Ionic and Corinthian forms; the latter, especially, they used in many different buildings. As the Greeks had already solved the principal problems of the Orders, the Romans, in working out their local and individual types, concerned themselves more in varying the details and mouldings to suit their own ideas.
The precedents offered by the Roman work to which we can refer, vary in detail and proportion in a much less degree than was true of the Greek Orders. This is because of the fact that the earlier buildings were almost entirely destroyed, or that, having accepted the Greek Orders as a basis, the Romans cared to make few experiments except in working out more elaborately the details of the various parts. It will also be noticed that the dates of execution of Roman work do not furnish the same standard for judging of its merit as was almost invariably applicable in the case of Greek architecture. Some Roman work of late date vies in execution with that of the best early periods in its proportions, massing, and composition of members and details.
There are comparatively few examples showing the Roman usage of the Doric and Ionic Orders, remaining in anywhere near a complete state of preservation, in Rome itself; while of the buildings in which the Corinthian and Composite Orders were used, there are many fine remains. Whether it was that the Romans actually but seldom used these forms, or whether, in the constant demolition of earlier work by each succeeding Roman ruler, these buildings were effectually destroyed, it is now rather difficult to say. However, the many capitals of early Ionic design used in later buildings, show by their varying character of workmanship and material that the latter alternative may have been the actual case.