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Jones, Owen, 1809-1874. / The grammar of ornament

Indian ornament, from the exhibitions of 1851 and 1855,   pp. 77-79 ff.

Page 78

the received forms of beauty of every bygone style of Art, without one single
attempt to produce an
Art in harmony with our present wants and means of production-the carver
in stone, the worker
in metal, the weaver and the painter, borrowing from each other, and alternately
misapplying the
forms peculiarly appropriate to each-there were to be found in isolated collections
at the four
corners of the transepts all the principles, all the unity, all the truth,
for which we had looked elsewhere
in vain, and this because we were amongst a people practising an art which
had grown up with their
civilisation, and strengthened with their growth.  United by a common faith,
their art had necessarily
a common expression, this expression varying in each according to the influence
to which each nation
was subject. The Tunisian still retaining the art of the Moors who created
the Alhambra; the Turk
exhibiting the same art, but modified by the character of the mixed population
over which they rule;
the Indian uniting the severe forms of Arabian art with the graces of Persian
All the laws of the distribution of form which we have already observed in
the Arabian and
Moresque Ornament are equally to be found in the productions of India.  From
the highest work of
embroidery, or most elaborate work of the loom, to the constructing and decorating
of a child's toy
or earthen vessel, we find everywhere at work the same guiding principles,-there
is always the same
care for the general form, the same absence of all excrescences or superfluous
ornament; we find
nothing that has been added without purpose, nor that could be removed without
disadvantage.  The
same division and subdivision of their general lines, which forms the charms
of Moresque ornament,
is equally to be found here; the difference which creates the style is not
one of principle, but of
individual expression.  In the Indian style ornaments are somewhat more flowing
and less convention-
alised, and have, doubtless, been more subjected to direct Persian influence.
The ornaments on Plate XLIX. are chiefly taken from Hookhas, of which there
was an immense
variety exhibited in 1851, aud all remarkable for great elegance of outline,
and for such a judicious
treatment of the surface decoration4_iat every ornament tended to further
develope the general
It will be seen that there are two kinds of ornament,--the one strictly architectural
and conven-
tional: such as Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, which are treated as diagrams; and the
other, such as Nos. 13, 14, 15,
in which a more direct imitation of nature is attempted: these latter are
to us very valuable lessons,
showing how unnecessary it is for any work of decoration to more than indicate
the general idea of
ai flower.  The ingenious way in which the full-blown flower is shown in
No. 15, in three positions
in Nos. 14 and 15, the folding back of the leaf in No. 20, are very suggestive.
 The intention of
the artist is fully expressed by means as simple as elegant.  The unity of
the surface of the
object decorated is not destroyed, as it wouldE be by the European method
of making the flower
as near like a natural flower as possible, with its own light and shade and
shadow, tempting you to
pluck it from  the surface.  On the Persian, Plate XLVII., will be seen a
similar treatment of
natural flowers; the comparison shows how much of Persian influence there
is in this floral style of
In the application of the various ornaments to the different portions of
the objects the greatest
judgment is always shown.  The ornament is invariably in perfect scale with
the position it occupies;
on the narrow necks of the Hookhas are the small pendent flowers, the swelling
forms of the base
are occupied by the larger patterns; at the lower edge, again, appear ornaments
having an upward
tendency, and, at the same time, forming a continuous line round the form
to prevent the eye running
out of it.  Whenever narrow flowing borders are used, as in No. 24, they
are contrasted by others,
with lines flowing in an opposite direction; the general repose of the decoration
is never for a moment
lost sight of.
In the equal distribution of the surface ornament over the grounds, the Indians
exhibit an instinct

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