Speculations on Ornament from Vitruvius to Venturi
Author: George L. Hersey
Publisher: MIT Press
Why do architects still use the classical orders? Why use forms derived from ancientGreek temples when ancient Greek religion has been dead for centuries and when the way of life theyexpressed is extinct? And why decorate a contemporary courthouse with the bones, eggs, darts, claws,and garlands that an ancient Greek would recognize as the trappings of animal sacrifice?With theseprovocative questions George Hersey begins his recovery of the meaning of classical architecture.For the last four centuries, he shows, philology and formalism have drained architecture of itspoetry. By analyzing this poetry - the tropes founded on the Greek terms for ornamental detail - hereconstructs a classical theory about the origin and meaning of the orders, one that links them toancient sacrificial ritual and myth.In doing so, Hersey reinterprets key tales and taboos that werepart of the cultural memory of the ancient Greeks. His touchstone is Vitruvius, author of the onlysurviving classical treatise on architecture, whose stories about Dorus, Ion, and the Corinthianmaiden, and about the Caryaean women and Persian soldiers, describe the orders as records orremembrances of sacrifice.Hersey finds revivals of this consciousness in the Italian Renaissance andthrows new light on the works of the architectural theorists Francesco di Giorgio and CeasareCesariano, and also on Raphael's Disputá, Michelangelo's tomb of Julius 11 and Medici Chapel, andHugues Sambin's handbook on termini.George Hersey is Professor of Art History at Yale University andthe author of many books, including Architecture, Poetry, and Number in the Royal Palace at Caserta(MIT Press 1983).