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A handbook of ornament by Franz Sales Meyer - PDF ebook

A handbook of ornament 

A handbook of ornament
A handbook of ornament

The term "ORNAMENT", in its limited sense, includes such of the Elements of Decoration as are adapted, or developed, from Natural Foliage. These differ from the Geometrical elements, inasmuch as they are organic i. e. possessing stems, leaves,., flowers, ., while the latter are inorganic. When merely drawn on paper, ., and unapplied a foliated element is considered in the abstract as "Ornament". When applied to beautify an object it becomes an "Element of Decoration".

 The term "DECORATION" signifies the art or process of applying the various Elements to beautify Objects. It is also used to denote the completed result. Thus the artist, who is occupied in the "decoration" of a vase, may represent ornament upon it; and the ornament is then the "Decoration" of the vase.

 The "ELEMENTS" of Decoration are Geometrical -lines, Ornament, Natural-foliage, Artificial Objects, Animals, and the Human Figure. These may be considered as the "ingredients'"; and they are mixed, and applied, on various arrangements or "Features", according to certain acknowledged "recipes" which are termed "Principles". 

The "PRINCIPLES" of Decoration are not included in this Handbook, as the limits of it allow only a brief notice of such Elements as having been in general use during the successive Historic-epochs.] Wherever the hand of man has produced any Decoration, be it. original Invention, or only the arbitrary Variation of some familiar fundamental idea, the following will invariably be the case: 

(a) The decoration is produced by arranging and joining Dots and Lines, or by combining and dividing Geometrical Figures, in accordance with the laws of rhythm, regularity, symmetry,

(b) It arises from the attempt of the decorator to represent the Objects of the external world. Nearest at hand for imitation is organic Nature with the Plants, Animals, and Human form. But in- organic Nature also offers models: e. g. the forms of Crystallisation (snow-flakes), and the Phenomena of nature (clouds, waves, ). Rich sources are also opened up by the Artificial Objects which are fashioned by the man himself. It is obvious that all kinds of Elements may be used in combination: Geometrical may be united with Natural forms; and so on.

 Moreover, it was easy for human imagination to combine details taken from nature into monstrous forms not found in nature, e. g. the Sphinx, Centaur, Mermaid, &c.; and Animal and Human bodies with plant-like terminations. If we collect, into groups, the bases or motives of decoration omitting what is non-essential and detached, we arrive at the classification given in the following pages. 

The decoration is applied to countless objects, and the style may be very varied without being arbitrary; being determined, firstly, by the aim and the material of the object to be decorated, and, secondly, by the ideas ruling at different periods and among different nations. It is therefore obvious that it has a comprehensive and important domain. 

A knowledge of it is indispensable to artists, and it is an instructive and sociologically interesting factor of general culture. The peculiarities which arise from the reciprocal relation of material, form, and aim, more or less modified by the ideas of the Age and the natural characteristics of the Nation, are termed the "Style" of that Period and Nation.

 The mention, of the Century and the Nation, gives a convenient method of labeling works of Art, which is now well understood; e. g. "17th century, Italian". The majority of works on the ornament, arrange their material according to Periods and Nations; but the present Handbook, follow- ing the principles laid down by Semper, Botticher, and Jacobsthal, is based on a system which is synthetic rather than analytic; and in- tended more to construct and develop from the Elements than to dissect and deduce. It contains three main divisions:

 Division I treats the "Elements of Decoration", or motives of which it is formed. Geometrical motives formed by the rhythmical arrangement of dots and lines, by the regular section of angles, by the formation and division of closed figures, are followed by the forms of Nature which are offered for ornamental imitation by the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and by the human frame. These in their turn are followed by Artificial Objects, or forms borrowed from Art, Technology, and Science, and usually met- within the class of trophies, symbols.

Division II, "Ornament applied to Features", arranges thorns according to their functions, and the reciprocal relation between the construction of the object and the application of the ornament. The division falls into five sub-divisions: A. Bands (bordering, framing, and connecting forms); B. Free Ornaments (forms whose construction expresses a termination or cessation); C. Supports (types of ornament which express the principle of weight- bearing); D. Enclosed Ornament suitable for the enlivenment of a defined bordered field, (panels); E. Repeating Ornament (the decoration of surfaces which, disregarding the limits of space, are developed, on a geometrical or organic basis, into "patterns"). Division III shows the application of decoration to vase- form, metal objects, furniture, frames, jewelry, heraldry and writing, printing, &c. Further details, as to the groups and divisions, will be found in the "Table of the Arrangement of the Handbook" which follows this introduction. The illustrations, numbering almost 3,000, and comprised of 300 full-page plates, represent the styles of the most various periods and nations.

 A comparatively large share of attention has been devoted to the Antique because it is in that Period that form usually finds its clearest and most beautiful expression. Next to that in importance is the Renascence with its wealth and freedom of form. The space, devoted to the creations of the Middle Ages, is more limited. From the styles of the Decadence, only a few examples have been admitted, for the sake of comparison and characterization. Modern times, as a rule, have only been taken into account, where forms arose which do not occur in the historic styles. The illustrations have been partly taken directly from the originals, and partly as was almost unavoidable reproduced from other Books; for the leading idea of the present work is not to offer anything Tiew, but to arrange what is already known, in a manner suitable both to the subject and to the aim of a Handbook. Where the author was acquainted with the source, which he regrets was not always the case, the authority has been mentioned in the text.


Franz Sales Meyer

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Arts and crafts, Ornaments - Decoration and ornament, Art objects

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