Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Acanthus #5- Roll me over and do it again!

All right! If you've been doing the homework, you have now drawn out a flat acanthus leaf with all of the necessary components of its design. Way to go! However, acanthus ornament is very rarely depicted as flat. ("You mean I did all this work and I'm not even going to use it?!") You will use it, but we will now modify the leaf shape to fit different purposes.

Probably the first thing most people will associate with the acanthus is the decorative foliage of a Corinthian style capital, as seen in this beautiful Beaux-Arts print from Camillo Boito's book, Gli Stili dell'Ornamento (1882). As you can see, the leaves of the capital lean out and bend over, which is the norm for a Corinthian capital. Look also at the stylization of the eyelets on this leaf; they look almost like the metal-ringed eyelets on a workboot. This is again a stylization: it would not occur in nature, but it looks clean, and it attracts the eye by creating a highlight around the dark of the eye, making a clear punctuation of the leaf's rhythm.

Top capital is from the Temple of Apollo at Didyma (present day Turkey), the bottom acanthus leaf is from the Temple of the Winds in Athens.

Below is an acanthus leaf applied to the bottom side of a modillion, or soffit bracket, from the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. Again the top is bent forward. Also look at the eyelets on this one; cut very squarely with tiny leaflets hanging down, and the deep grooving of the leaflets, a characteristic that is seen in many examples from Greece and Asia Minor.

Modillion from the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. From Hector d'Espouy's Fragments Antiques (1905)

So here's a quick run down on how to do this bending, taken from James Page's Guide for Drawing the Acanthus, (1840). I won't go into too much detail, as I think the drawings are pretty self-explanatory. 

Step one- fold over the general form of the leaf with the eyelets drawn in.

Step two- elaboration of the lobes and leaflets. Observe carefully the reversing of the curves of the lobes that are folded over. 

Step three- the leaf rendered

Corinthian Capital from the Temple of Mars Ultor. From Hector d'Espouy's Fragments Antiques (1905)

Corinthian Capital from the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. From Hector d'Espouy's Fragments Antiques (1905)
All of the examples of capitals that I have shown here are in the more "olivine" style (leaves that look like an olive tree's), another variant on the acanthus leaf which can be found in many places. Look at it carefully, and draw a section, so that you can recognize it and be ready to design with it, noting the cleaner, more linear, more geometric style by comparison to the frillier, more organic style that we have been using for the lessons. Each has its purpose, in accordance with the architecture it enhances.

Next up: Twisting the Night Away!

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