Plaster Cornices » History of the Ornament: The Modern Times

History of the Ornament: The Modern Times

The Modern Time

In the more modern times, ornaments continued to instill antique elements, especially in the 15th century, when there was a renewed interest in the study of motifs in antiquity. At the same time, however, different forms of art were already forming, such as the one the Romans started. Foremost among this is the candelabrum/candelabra ornament. This type of ornament was used in churches and other similar structures.

A sign that new times were ahead was the common ornaments that featured thin stalks with smooth acanthus leaves sprouting in the direction of the branch, a flower in the end curl, and moderately stylized natural shapes. Roman motifs were gracefully arranged. Natural flower and fruit ornaments were also a big thing. This was during the time 15th century, and in the time of Donatello. Later on, though, these became more and more related and interspersed with grotesque elements. The grotesque style of decorative art is described as extravagant and was found in a lot of walls, corridors, and rooms.

Changes happened and there were some additions in the 16th century. This was also the time of the early renaissance in the Dutch community. Inscriptions became especially popular in Rome. The cartoccio or cartouche, which is a rounded convex surface filled with ornamental carvings or scrollwork, was one of the artistic marks of the century. This style spread throughout and became popular in the Netherlands.

If in the second half of the 15th century, the focus was more on ornamental prints engraved for decorative art use, the second half of the 16th century saw the rise in use of the cartouche and the scrollwork that went with it. Designs influenced by old Oriental band braids made their entrance to the Netherlands and these became motifs for the ornamental ceilings of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The band braids adopted “moresk” decoration and remained in vogue in the following centuries.

New concepts of ornamental forms, including the scrollwork and its variants, started to emerge in the 17th century. Changes included swollen plastic forms, a sturdier form for the Louis XIV style, the addition of mythical creatures, a lot of horns, and intricately decorated fountains.

Ornaments in the 18th century were lighter and thinner, with more natural foliage. Many styles leaned towards asymmetry. As France continued to set the tone, there was quite a lot of classic symmetry. In the latter part of the 18th century, the Louis XVI ornament took the spotlight. It combined elements of classical architecture with symmetrical palms and leafy garlands, with a touch of the romantic. Perfect examples for this would be the hourglass and the inverted torches. These ornaments were described as gaunt and thin.


Empire Style

The empire style was characterized by a lot of antique forms and ornaments that were combined with imperial symbols. These seen in creations with spikes, stretched tent roofs, banners, crowns, cannons, and scepters. One of the most popular empire style creations is the Arc de Triomphe of Place de l’Etoile. Although the style was generally considered characteristically flat, the lines were accentuated. Louis XIV designs, however, were regarded as more stylized than the empire style.

This ornamental style stayed on until the emergence of the Biedermeier ornaments.

It is important to note that even as it progressed, there are always styles that repeat themselves and ornaments from earlier periods were somehow always borrowed and combined with the new ones. Variety and innovation were the names of the game.


New Style

In 1894, Henry van de Velde launched a new design in Belgium. Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau, was also born in Germany. A more modern but simple ornament style was prevalent in the Netherlands and Austria in the 1900s, but highly stylized and geometric ornaments were also popular choices. There were also touches of the Asian style.

In the Netherlands, plastic ornaments were represented by Erich Wichman and his silver tableware, and other similar creations.

Lastly, the mix and match of styles that featured zigzags, stair lines, color effects, and broken ornaments were given a harmonizing factor in the early 20th century.




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