Greek Ionic Order of Architecture: Origins
Of this beautiful and graceful order it is as difficult to determine the origin as of the Doric. The explanation of Vitruvius is that the Ionic colonists, on building a temple to Diana, wished to find some new manner that was beautiful. Following the method which they had pursued with the Doric (proportioning the column according to the dimensions of a man), they imparted to this the delicacy of the female figure in the first place, by making the diameter of the column one-eight of its height, then by putting a base to it in twisted cords, like the sandals of a woman, and forming the capital with volutes, like the hair which hangs on both sides of her face. To crown all, he says that they channelled or fluted the column to resemble the folds of female garments, by which it would appear that Vitruvius did not know that the Greeks never executed the Doric order without fluting the columns. "Thus," he goes on to say, "they invented these two species of columns, imitating in the one the naked simplicity and dignity of a man, and in the other delicacy and the ornaments of a woman."
From the recent discoveries in Assyria, however, there can be no reasonable doubt that the Greek colonists of Ionia at least obtained their idea of the Ionic capital from Nineveh. As to its earliest forms great differences of opinion exist. An extremely plausible theory, originated and ably worked out by Mr Skidmore, suggests that the delicate Ionic curls were copied from the curved ornamental wire-work of the goldsmiths. On the other hand, a recent French author has found in Sicily a rudely-carved capital which is little more than a block of stone with the ends rounded off, the curve being continued, and thus forming a volute; and it is very possible that a crude idea like this might have been worked, out, with some help from Assyria, into one of the many forms of the ionic capitals.
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