Arrowsmith, Henry William / The house decorator and painter's guide; containing a series of designs for decorating apartments, suited to the various styles of architecture
[Interior decoration, continued], pp. 21-23
21 In every attempt to decorate, it is of great importance to consider the comparative size and the ultimate object of the house or apartment. That style which is admirably suited for one class of buildings, is altogether inap- propriate for another; and we must, therefore, before we can give an opinion of the styles adopted by any nation, ascertain the habits of the people, and the character of their structures. Acting upon this principle, it is impor- tant that we should ascertain the extent and arrangement of the houses or villas, in the decoration of which the Romans expended their talent and wealth, before we describe the several styles adopted in their domestic archi- tecture. All the Roman villas of which we have any account, were large and superb structures, and were constructed of stone or brick, in some one of the orders of architecture, with a rigid regard to the ordonnance of the style. It has consequently been supposed by some writers, that the word villa was confined in its application to large mansions in rural situations; but with what reason the term has been thus restricted in its meaning, we do not know. That 'all the villas which are spoken of and described by ancient authors were of immense extent, and finished in the most sumptuous manner, without regard to expense, must be admitted; but it does not follow that all Roman villas were as large and as sumptuously decorated. On the other hand, there is reason to believe, that they were exceptions, and that they would not have been described with so much minuteness had they been merely varieties of a certain class of buildings, commonly possessed by wealthy, noble, or luxuriant citizens. We can, however, only describe those which are mentioned in the writings of the ancients. Of the external appearance of these buildings we need not speak in this volume, as the decorator has, properly speaking, nothing to do with the exterior of a building. It will therefore be sufficient to say, that these villas were of a commanding and elegant form, and would probably have been called palaces by modern observers, had even their ruins remained to the present day.
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