1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > The Caryatides, or Caryatic Order of Greek Architecture

(Part 51)

The Caryatides, or Caryatic Order of Greek Architecture

Besides the three species of columnar arrangement enumerated above, the Greeks employed another in which statues of women occupied the place of columns. The origin of this order is furnished by Vitruvius in a story which is as usual totally unsupported by history or analogy. Nevertheless it has fixed the nomenclature, such figures being called Caryatides, and the arrangement the Caryatic order. The use of representations of human and other figures with or instead of columns is, however, common in Egypt and India; and to the former the Greeks were doubtless indebted for the idea, though they appear to have restricted its application to human female figures. Mr. Gwilt infers from various facts connected with the worship of Diana Caryatis, "that the statues called Caryatides were originally applied to or used about the temples of Diana; and instead or representing captives or persons in a state ignominy (according to the Vitruvian story), were in fact nothing more than the figures of the virgins who celebrated the worship of that goddess."

Of these caryatides there is but one existing example. It is the third portion of the triple temple in the Athenian Acropolis, and is a projection from the flank of the principal Ionic structure, formed by a stereobatic dado raised on the stylobate and antae-base mouldings, with a sur-base consisting of a carved bead and carved ovolo covered by a broad listel, with a narrow projecting fillet above it. On this rests a square plinth, supporting a draped female figure, on the head of which there is imposed a circular moulded block, with a deep rectangular abacus, two-thirds of whose face is vertical, and the other third is a cavetto fillet, and small cyma-reversa. The stereobate, including the moulded base of the temple, is about three-fourths the height of the statue pillar with its base and capital. The entablature is rather less than two-fifths of the same, but it consists of architrave and cornice alone, between which parts the height is nearly equally divided. Details will be understood by reference to Plate XII. figs. 4, 5, 6. This caryatidean portico displays very clearly the arrangement of the ceiling, with its coffers or cassoons. Internally the architrave is plain two-thirds of its height; of the remaining third rather more than one-half is a plain, slightly projected fascia, the other half is occupied by a carved bead and ovolo. In the absence of a frieze the ceiling rests on this, and is divided by carved beads into panels, which are deeply coffered, and diminished by three horizontal moulded fascias.

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