Category Archives: Acanthus

The Acanthus leaf : images from art and architecture

      The word ”Acanthus” recalls to mind the Corinthian columns from Greece. The leaf is a perennial, with thick, spiny leaves with serrated edges.  There are several varieties of  the acanthus plant. Though it is surmised that the motif of this leaf originated from the palmette design, it still fascinates. Acanthus depicts long and enduring life. The acanthus plant grows in and around  the Mediterranean. Check out the story of this unique leaf and its journey  in different media used in the human realm !

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Diagram, acanthus leaf.

Buddhist Capital from Gandhara, 4th century A.D

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says : Acanthus, in architecture and decorative arts, is a stylized ornamental motif based on a characteristic Mediterranean plant with jagged leaves, Acanthus spinosus. It was first used by the Greeks in the 5th century BC on temple roof ornaments, on wall friezes, and on the capital of the Corinthian column. One of the best examples of its use in the Corinthian order is the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Later the Romans used the motif in their Composite order, in which the capital of the column is a three-dimensional combination of spirals resembling rams’ horns and full-bodied acanthus leaves. The acanthus leaf has been a popular motif in carved furniture decoration since the Renaissance.

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Acanthus leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital detail,temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century,Athens, Greece. 

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Acanthus leaf design seen on the capitals, temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century, Athens, Greece. 

A poem reads thus –

 The Corinthian of Greece and acanthus leaves-
The temple of Athens where the golden bell rings.
Its a tumble of tune a song for the yore-
The musical swells, as symphony soar.
The bride of Apollo does walk down the aisle, in virgin white lace-
by power of means she maneuvers with grace.
And Apollo himself wrote a passaged vow to wealthiest wealth of love that forever bows.
Without her, he says, the nights have no moon,
the stars will fall out of place,
neither courtesy of colors in midst noon nor there is such a beautiful face.
Apollo’s Bride, Cassandra, blushed with fury lust-
And by the ring she took his hand,
her lover Apollo took it by grand.
And together forever they treasured their land
Under Greece’s dome by the Corinithia of Acanthus leaves- ..
The bells continuously sing Golden bells’ ring
of what rumbles and bring
The definition of lovely things.

                                            ………………………..by Brittany Martin.

 Acanatha is a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant. The tale goes that Acantha was a nymph loved by the god Apollo. Acantha, however, rebuffed Apollo’s advances and scratched his face. As a result, Apollo transformed her into the Acanthus, a plant with spiny leaves. The acanthus leaf has inspired  art and architecture right from the 5th century in Greece and Rome as mentioned. The leaf has inspired designs for wall papers, wood work as railings, on watches, as decoration on book illustrations. The 4th and 5th century art at Gandhara had a lot of Greek influence and the Buddhist capital below depicts the acanthus leaf used for ornamentation. The design is used as a modern tattoo too !Image result for acanthus leaf design

Illustration, Acanthus Capital.

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Fragment of frieze with acanthus leaves, Islamic art, 6th century.

Byzantine architecture too has celebrated the acanthus leaf motif. The leaves cover large surfaces. Also seen in the letters of Illustrated manuscripts including the borders. Many Roman buildings have captured the beauty of this leaf as foliage designs. Islamic art has also used this awesome motif.

Illuminated Book of Hours with acanthus leaf as ornamental border, 1406–09 A.D

File:Rosewater sprinkler, Mughal dynasty, c. 1700, India, silver and gilt silver - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05183.JPG

Mughal rose water sprinkler, acanthus motif design, 1700 A.D

Detail from the facade of the Cathedral in Syracuse, Italy, 18th century. 

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Acanthus block-printed cotton velveteen designed by William Morris, 19th century.

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Cushion cover, acanthus design, 21st century. (Image from Amazon.com)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

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Soma Ghosh

 

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