Greece

Excavations by Heinrich Schliemann and others clearly show that in their early stages, Egypt and Mesopotamia exercised a powerful influence on Greek art and—just as for their predecessors—art and architecture began in the service of religion. The Early Greek period (c. 750500 B.C.) was one of transition, and Hollis Baker states,"The small city states of Greece with their ideals of democracy provided a very different background from that of the rich Oriental civilizations of Mesopotamia ruled by warlike kings, and the difference in the two cultures is apparent in the furniture that evolved."

Greek culture which centered on mainland Greece, as well as in Crete and an Aegean island group (the Cyclades), enjoyed it greatest prosperity between c. 500 and c. 330 B.C., which is an era historians term classical or Hellenic. When it came to design, the Greeks regarded

FIGURE 1.19 Brightly painted clay nails used by the Mesopotamian builders for decoration to hide the ubiquitous characteristics of the mud.

beauty as an attribute of the gods, and its conscious pursuit was a religious exercise. They typically preferred to develop form types, and then continue to refine them rather than create a multitude of new forms. During the Hellenistic period (c. 330 to c. 30 B.C.) that succeeded it, the emphasis was on the elaboration of basic forms, the characteristics of which the Romans later copied or adapted. Likewise, there was a greater emphasis on the interior of houses and palaces which became more impressive with rooms now taking on specific functions.

Under the leadership and rule of Pericles (443 to 429 B.C.), Athens' affluence reached its zenith, leading to unprecedented building activity and the highest achievements in Hellenic art and architecture of this period. During the reign of Alexander the Great (336 to 323 B.C.), lands under Greek control extended as far as Egypt and Syria. It was during this period that the Corinthian style was developed.

The Greeks, like the Romans, had a love for monumentality and grandeur, and marble which was in abundant supply in Greece, proved to be the perfect conduit to achieving their aspirations. Classical Greek and Roman architecture had a profound structural and decorative influence in subsequent periods, particularly from the Italian Renaissance onwards. Interpretations of classical architecture have been both literal translations and adaptations. Designers of later periods adopted and adapted from ancient Greece and Rome such features as axial planning, utilizing the colonnade as a space planning tool, using natural light as an effective design element, the atrium plan, among others. The classical architectural vocabulary was a source of inspiration as well as direct imitation during the centuries that followed, and classical motifs were used both structurally and decoratively. In interiors, they took the form of numerous moldings and pediments and other decorative effects and designs on walls and ceilings. Classical architectural motifs were also evident in furniture design.

Typically, the Greek temple was a simple, windowless, rectangular enclosure, whether surrounded by columns on all sides or with a front portico with columns of one of the three orders (Figure 1.20). The orders were important in Greek interiors not only to delineate a space, but also to give it scale. Thus as the order divided the spaces horizontally, it gave it direction and an axis. The decorative details in the capitals and entablature psychologically forced one's eye to move vertically upward and absorb the scale and monumentality of the structure.

The Greek classical orders typically consist of the column with a base (except for the Greek Doric column), shaft, capital, and entablature; each having its constituent components). These are classified by the capital as Doric, considered the oldest of the three styles, Ionic, and Corinthian. It should be noted that the Greek Doric column (Figure 1.21) typically had no base and stood directly on the stylobate (base platform). Its height measured between five and six times its diameter. The shaft tapered with a slight bulging to correct the optical illusion of an inward curve created by a straight column. This convex dilation, called entasis, made the Doric column appear more sturdy and robust from a distance. The Doric stylobate also billows slightly to counteract the illusion of a concave dip made by a flat base. It is probable that the concept of entasis was borrowed from the Babylonians who used it in the construction of their ziggurats, and whose culture Greek historians like Herodotus were certainly aware of.

The Doric column was never considered to be suitable for rich ornamentation.The Romans however, developed the Doric column by adding a base to it and modifying its proportions. In Greece the Doric was later partly superseded by the Ionic (Figure 1.22) which is thinner and more elegant, and whose capital is decorated with a scroll-like design (a volute).The last order to emerge was the Corinthian style (Figure 1.23). Its capital was decorated with acanthus leaves.

The beauty of Greek art is attributed to the exquisite proportions and graceful lines of its components. The Greeks were convinced that the secrets of beauty were ratios and proportions, which is why their temples were conceived in mathematical terms. Correcting optical illusions was a major consideration of the Greek architect. Proportions of the various structural and decorative elements including, columns, entablatures, moldings, and ornament varied among the orders. The module for heights of the various parts was determined by the column's diameter. The early Greeks found that rectangles with dimensions in the ratio of 2:3,3:5 and 5:8 were most pleasing (whereas their Sumerian and Babylonian predecessors found the ratio of 3:4 to be more pleasing).

No nation has had a more consequential cultural influence on western civilization than ancient Greece. Many of the period styles that followed were influenced in one form or another by the characteristics observed in classical Greek and Roman pure and applied arts, including architecture, space planning, interior architecture, and furniture design.

FIGURE 1.20 Temple of Hera at Paestum in Italy, built between 448 and 430 B.C. Plan, section, and elevation showing double colonnade of the cella. A prime example of the classic hexastyle temple. An enclosed sanctuary housed the image of the god. (From Henri Stierlin, Encyclopedia of World Architecture, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1983)

FIGURE 1.20 Temple of Hera at Paestum in Italy, built between 448 and 430 B.C. Plan, section, and elevation showing double colonnade of the cella. A prime example of the classic hexastyle temple. An enclosed sanctuary housed the image of the god. (From Henri Stierlin, Encyclopedia of World Architecture, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1983)

FIGURE 1.21 Greek Doric structure of the Temple of Aphaea, Aegina (c. 500 B.C.)

Space Planning

The earliest known form of Greek temple was based on the Mycenaean megaron. The development of this simple plan type affected space planning into the Hellenistic period. It consisted essentially of three elements; a hall, a storeroom at the rear, and later, a porch. Palaces sometimes incorporated such megaron structures as independent units functioning as apart-ments.The Greeks, like many peoples in the region, preferred the courtyard layout in which the court was the focus of the plan and the various rooms were cuddled around it. The dining room was typically the largest room in the house, and where much of the daily activity took place. Also, it was usually richer in decoration than other rooms around the court and was often placed in the corner. Couches and furniture were usually arranged around the perimeter of the room, and as was the custom in ancient times, it was common to recline on these to eat. Situated around the court were other spaces, including the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and storerooms.

FIGURE 1.22 Ionic Order. (Left) Greek Ionic. (Right) Roman Ionic.
FIGURE 1.23 Corinthian Order. (Left) Greek Corinthian. (Right) Roman Corinthian.

Materials and Building Techniques

Early Greek construction techniques were strongly influenced by the Egyptian column and lintel form of construction. The Greeks were the first to use columns in a structural manner on the exterior of their buildings, as evidenced in the porticos and colonnades. Marble and limestone were indigenous materials and were used extensively for the exterior and interiors of many of their temples and secular buildings. Wood, clay, and thatch were also locally available. In domestic architecture, floor treatment varied according to the status of the owner, ranging from the simply utilitarian to the very decorative. Most houses used compacted earth floors, although wealthier homeowners of the classical period frequently used plaster, painting, or mosaic. Decorative floor treatment techniques included three principal methods of mosaic flooring using pebbles, glass, and stone set in a mortar. Walls in more modest residences were left unplastered mud; whereas in the more elaborate houses, plastering and painting were common. Fenestration was not a significant factor in wall design during the Greek period, particularly on the first floor, because like their Mesopotamian counterparts, Greek houses were inward looking.

Furniture and Decoration

The Greeks created various molding forms that, in addition to their aesthetic value, served to divide the surface into smaller parts and create interest and variety (Figure 1.24). By the late 7th and early 6th century B.C., Greek furniture of some sophistication began to appear, and

Cyma Reversa Torus Torus Cyma Reversa

Greek moldings Roman moldings

FIGURE 1.24 Examples of Classical Greek and Roman moldings. (Courtesy, Sherril Whiton,

Cyma Reversa Torus Torus Cyma Reversa

Greek moldings Roman moldings

FIGURE 1.24 Examples of Classical Greek and Roman moldings. (Courtesy, Sherril Whiton,

Interior Design and Decoration, J.B. Lippincott Co.)

by the 5th century B.C., most of the basic forms of Greek furniture were developed. Also during the 5th century B.C., there was an increase in the use of wood turning in furniture manufacture. The Greeks used marble, bronze, iron, and wood in the manufacture of their furniture. Decorative enhancements were achieved through relief carving and the use of inlay and painting. The Greeks used various materials in their inlay work, including imported woods, gold, ivory, and gems. Also practiced was painting popular design motifs on the furniture surfaces, giving a shining polychrome effect (Figure 1.25). The couch in ancient Greece served a dual function; in addition to being used as a bed for sleeping, it was used as a couch on which to recline when dining (Figure 1.26). This is reminiscent of the banqueting scene of Assurbanipal. This appears to have also been the custom on festive occasions throughout Greek and Roman history.

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FIGURE 1.25 Examples of typical Greek decorative motifs.

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FIGURE 1.25 Examples of typical Greek decorative motifs.

FIGURE 1.26 Greek couch with cut-out legs and table painted on a vase depicting reclining male (530 to 510 B.C.). Compare with Figure 1.14, Assurbanipal dining.

In Figure 1.27a, we see an example of furniture form and motifs following those of architecture. The throne with cut-out legs (which lessened the strength of the legs) with volute capitals. In Figure 1.27b we see a chair with an unusual chair back with a palmette finial. During the Classical period, chair legs developed a more pronounced outward curve, and the back swept upward in a continuous line. During the early part of the 5th century B.C., the chair developed a broad horizontal back and a list at the top, establishing a fixed form for the classical chairs.

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