The journal of design and manufactures
[Original papers:] On the study of polychromy, by Gottfried Semper., pp. 112-113
Original Papers: On th# Study of Polyhromy. 118 is observable with respect to ancient music, which in like manner consisted of Doric and the Ionic. Now, we know that the Doric legislators sought to found their civil institutions on the Egyptian system; while those of the Ionians based theirs on the traditions of Asia. Recent researches on the monuments of Assyria and Egypt have shewn that the forms of Doric architecture were derived from Egypt, while - those of Ionia came from Assyria, or at least from some Asiatic country of common origin. "It may, therefore, be presumed that the different modes of music and of Greek polychromy were derived from the same sources. "The Doric style in music and in polychromy was Egyptian, as the Ionic was Asiatic. There is more in this than the mere name, for we are fully acquainted with the Egyptian style, and we know also the harmonious music of Asiatic colouring; for Byzantine, Arab, and Gothic painting, as indeed all modern paintings, are derived from it. We may observe the two different styles contrasted together on the walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum. "It would perhaps be more easy to arrive at some definite conclusion on the dif- ferent characteristics of Greek polychromy by help of this hypothesis, than by the feeble traces of colour which we observe with difficulty, and which give rise to such opposing theories. We find the same difference between the Egyptian and Hellenic polychromy, as between hieroglyphics and illustrative ornament and sculpture. "9. Greek art did not reach the zenith of its perfection till the Doric influence was penetrated by the Ionic-the material by the spiritual. Those arts which are least dependent on the material, would be the first to emancipate themselves. The Ionic feeling might exert its influence on the Doric style of painting, even though the architectural forms preserved the stamp of their original extraction; and this change would most readily take place in Attica. It is, therefore, to be inferred that Attic polychromy was richer and more Asiatic than that of Sicily, or of those countries where pure Doric influence existed. "10. The following is the result of my researches and observations on polychromy, as applied to architecture:- 1"C olour of the Architectural Masses.-The prevailing colour of the temple burned with all the glowing beauty of the setting sun. The colour may be defined as of a yellow red, very vapoury, resembling that of the finest terra-cottas. In fact, the general appearance of the temple would precisely resemble the appearance of a fine day in an Eastern climate. "This yellow tint covered all portions of the order-the columns, the architrave, the cornices, and probably the triglyphs and the beams. But all the flat ground members, as the walls-often decorated with paintings and ornaments-the tympana, the lacunaria, and perhaps the metopes, were of a blue-black. These colours would be laid on pretty thick, so as to obtain a sufficient body: the red would be trans- parent, but not the blue. " Colours of the Mouldings and Ornaments.-The prevailing colours of the mould- ings and ornaments were red, blue, and green; the two former colours being more perfect, more brilliant, and deeper, than in those parts which served as grounds. The green is very delicate, of a bright moss colour. The details of the ornaments alter- nate regularly, and are united together by very delicate and projecting fillets of white, black, or gold. In the temples of Athens, I believe them to have been of gold. Above the tolerably thick ground tint, may be observed thinner and transparent tints, completing the forms and subdivisions. It is difficult to tell the colour of the second tints, but they were probably of the same colour as the first. The enamels of Egypt, surrounded by golden fillets, give an idea of the appearance of the Athenian orna- ments when executed in ancient encaustic. The gold with which the whole was lined, as in a spiders web, is concentrated in parts with greater effect and intenseness, "Sculpture partook of the same system of polychromy: the figures of females were almost white; those of men were of a darker tint. The use of gold was also very pre- valent in sculpture. "11. Painting was not the mere filling up of the mouldings, or imitation of sculp- ture; but more probably the sculpture was rendered accessory to the painting." Mr. Semper it was who so skilfully arranged the Canadian Court in the Great Exhibition. His knowledge both of architecture, and generally of decora- tion, is profound, and his taste excellent. It is men of his acquirements from whom our manufacturers would be likely to obtain great help.
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