Non-architectural sources for Greek and Roman architectural form

Mark Wilson Jones

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Typically architecture is considered to belong to the ‘major’ arts, while ceramics, metalwork, furniture and textiles belong to the ‘minor’ ones. Correspondences between architectural, ceramic and metallic forms may be observed in a number of cultural contexts, with the common ground in the ubiquity of certain two-dimensional patterns and motifs, for example the guilloche, meander, palmette and rosette. Architecture did not necessarily lead in the creation and development of forms and solutions and instead sometimes followed. By the late Hellenistic and Roman periods the architectonic orders had been substantially defined and any architect embarking on a new commission would have had plenty of architectural precedents to turn to for inspiration, so there was no ‘need’ to look to non-architectural sources. Nonetheless, improvements, refinements, shifts of emphasis and style continued to take place, and it is not methodologically justifiable to ignore potential influence from the technical arts, especially metalwork. A link between parts of architectural capitals and classes of object with appropriate resonance is hardly an outlandish proposition. After all, in his account of the origin of the Corinthian capital, Vitruvius in effect tells us that its core originated from a kalathos, a kind of basket used for wool working, which later became ‘petrified’ in ceramic and stone, creating an undeniable connection between the kalathos and the Corinthian capital. High-class and costly marble vessels make likely vehicles for experimentation. Considering the evolution of some peculiar features, it is well to consider the possibility that some innovations of this kind were carried out in the context of prestigious commissions in the not so ‘minor’ arts, given the richness of the material such as marble, bronze or silver.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDecor. Decorazione e architettura nel mondo romano.
Subtitle of host publicationAtti del Convegno Internazionale, Roma, 21-24 maggio 2014
Place of PublicationRome
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-88-7140-753-1
ISBN (Print)978-88-7140-754-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series



  • Ancient architecture, Architectural orders, Tectonic arts, Technical arts, craft, offerings


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