Home and Garden Decorating Ideas

Decorating Ideas, Tips and Discussion Blog on Home and Garden Decor

The Popular Use of Acanthus Ornamentation

Posted by kaviiks on February 18, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the designs of your decorative ornamentation and accessories? How many times have you looked at a wall plaque or frieze and seen the obvious acanthus influence, or looked at a pair of bookends and admired the highly visible use of the acanthus leaves or even looked at a garden pot and noticed that familiar lobed leafy appeal? Acanthus designs are everywhere offering inspiration to much of human creativity; you can see this design on grilles and friezes, on the kitchen table as napkin holders and rings and on bath accessories where the look of the classical simply adds to a formal and yet inspiring appeal.

You will be surprised to find that many of the designs we use in our accessories borrow from the Greek and Roman influences in their own conception of what constitutes art and the use of ornamentation. The use of acanthus leaves, specifically from the Acanthus spinosus and the Acanthus mollis, are just some of the inspiring influences that have made their mark on Grecian and Roman architecture which we have since followed. Their initial design appearances probably began first with their use on Roman and Grecian columns and capitals. Somehow, the spiked appeal of the acanthus leaves (a genus of plants belonging to the natural order Acanthaceae) fostered creativity among the ancient Romans which gave it the extra twist by using more curls of the leaves to create a more visual impact. They loved to use the acanthus leaves to enhance the grand appearance of their buildings and temples. The especial use of the acanthus made its mark felt more in the Byzantine Empire under Emperor Constantine who has been credited with many architectural feats under his reign. Thereafter, the acanthus leaf and flower have been visibly used across many decorating styles finding its way from the Byzantine Empire into medieval art and then into the Gothic, Renaissance and Victorian eras.

In modern America, many European decorating styles that use the acanthus motif have found its inspiring use on the columns and pillars that mark courthouses, government buildings and other formal institutions. Sometimes, the use of the acanthus leaves have been stylized to reflect the mood of the artisan crafting it but the basic element is in place which is the beautiful spiked details of the acanthus leaves, captured in a way that makes its use throughout the centuries, a continuity to be admired.

Written by Romilla D. for Kaviik’s Accents
© 2011 Kaviik’s Accents Inc. All Rights Reserved

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