The Classic Acanthus
The most common plant used in architecture and design is the acanthus leaf. The two most common varieties found in early architecture are Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus mollis. Both varieties feature deeply cut leaves that lend a graphic and sculptural element to columns, borders, and corners.
In Ancient Greek architecture acanthus ornament appears extensively in the capitals of the Corinthian capitol.
The Roman writer Vitruvius (circa 75 BC — circa 15 BC) related that the Corinthian order had been invented by Callimachus, a Greek architect and sculptor who was inspired by the sight of a votive basket that had been left on the grave of a young girl. A few of her toys were in it, and a square tile had been placed over the basket, to protect them from the weather. An acanthus plant had grown through the woven basket, mixing its spiny, deeply cut leaves with the weave of the basket.
It was the Romans who gave the acanthus more of a curl. I love it in all its styles. It is a beautiful element. Love all these applications.
I am using this ornament from Decorators Supply in the bottom panel for a door design. It is a perfect size 8″ x 12″.
The original William Morris acanthus design.
Book of Hours
The acanthus works great in this balustrade.
Today the acanthus leaf motif is found most commonly in furniture. It gained much popularity during the French Louis XVI period. When you look at the gentle curves of an acanthus leaf you will understand why it has been such a favorite in carved, painted or gilded furniture. On textiles it can be woven embroidered or printed.
Classic Damask in stylized acanthus.
Our Louis XIV wall panel ornament.
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