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Vignola's composite order


    According to Vitruvius it was the Greek sculptor Callimachos (fifth century B.C.) who, upon seeing a basket grown about with acanthus leaves, conceived the idea of the Corinthian capital. From this was developed the Greek Corinthian Order which consists of this capital used together with certain members of the Greek Ionic. The sculptors of this nation employed the acanthus leaf in a highly conventionalized form in their Order while the Roman acanthus forms were more like the natural leaf. The body of the Corinthian capital is similar to an inverted bell over the top of which is a quadrilateral abacus. This abacus has a moulded edge which curves in on each side and is cut off at an angle of 45 degrees at the corners. The bell-shaped body is separated from the shaft of the column by a torus and conge. The leaves of the capital spring up from the torus as though coming from beneath the bell and are disposed in various ways around it.


    It was the Romans who fully developed the Corinthian Order and gave to us the typical capital. This capital contains two rows of acanthus leaves with eight leaves in either row from which spring the stems and tendrils which form the corner volutes. The lip of the bell in the Roman capital projects slightly beyond the abacus at its narrowest point while the Greek abacus entirely covers the bell. The Greek Corinthian and Ionic differ only in the capital, but the Roman Corinthian has a distinctive entablature as well. The corona is supported by a series of beam-like brackets called modillions which are ornamented with the acanthus leaf. The band from which the modillions project is in turn supported by a dentil course. The architrave is divided into several bands which are separated by small mouldings. The tendency in this Order as in the Roman Ionic was toward over-enrichment.
    The Corinthian Order by Vignola is given on Plate 70. It was derived from various examples then existing and so no doubt is an average of the Classic Corinthian Orders.


    This Order is so called because it is composed of parts of the other Orders in various combinations. It occurs in many forms, but the ones which are generally accepted under this name are made up of parts of the Ionic and Corinthian Orders. The proportions are practically the same as the Corinthian but there is much less of refinement and dignity about this Order than the others. It was usually very much over-ornamented and in some extreme examples lost almost all resemblance to the Orders from which it was developed.
    Vignola's Composite, as shown on Plate 72, probably represents this Order at its best, but in considering it, the student must remember that it is but one of a great many varieties and marks the beginning of the end of classic excellence.

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