1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > The Roman Composite Order

(Part 70)

The Roman Composite Order

The ancient examples of what is called the Composite order (Plate XV. Ex. 2) do not differ so much from the ordinary examples of the Corinthian as the latter do among themselves, except in the peculiar conformation of the capital of the column. In other respects, indeed, its arrangement and general proportions are exactly those of the Corinthian. The Composite was used in triumphal arches, and in the best ages of Roman architecture, in them alone. The difference in the capital consists in the enlargement of the volutes to nearly one-fourth the whole height of the capital, and in the connection of their stems horizontally under the abacus, giving the appearance of a distorted Ionic capital. The central tendrils of the Corinthian are omitted, and the drum of the capital is girded under the stem of the volutes by an ovolo and bead, as in he Ionic. Acanthus leaves, in two rows, fill up the whole height from the hypotrachelium to the bottom of the volutes, and are consequently higher than in the Corinthian capital: this difference is given to the upper row. Besides this Composite, however, the Romans made many others, the arrangements and proportions of the ordinances being generally those of the Corinthian order, and the capitals corresponding also in general form, though in themselves differently composed. In these, animals of different species, the human figure, armour, a variety of foliage, and other peculiarities are found. Shafts of columns also are sometimes corded or cabled instead of being fluted: those of the internal ordinance of the Pantheon are cabled to one-third their height, and the flutes of the antae of that ordinance are flat, eccentric curves. There are fragments of others existing, in which the fillets between the flutes are beaded; some in which they are wider than usual, and grooved; others, again, whose whole surface is wrought with foliage in various ways; and it would be no less absurd to arrange all these in different orders, than to make a distorted and hybrid capital the ground-work of an order.

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