What Is Term Ornament Means

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,. t ,flowers, &c., while the

latter are inorganic.


When merely drawn on paper, &c., 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 “deco-

ration” 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,

These may be considered as the “ingredients'”; and they are mixod,

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 Hand-

book, as the limits of it allow only a brief notice of such Elements

as have been in general use during the successive Historic-epochs

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, &c.;


(b) It arises from the attempt of the decorator to represent the

Objects of the external world. Nearest at hand for imitation, is or-

ganic 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, &c.). Rich

sources are also opened-up by the Artificial Objects which are fashioned

by man himself.


It is obvious that all kinds of Elements may be used in com-

bination: 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.  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 labelling works of Art, which is now well understood; e. g. “17th century, Italian”.  The majority of works on 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 develope from the Elements than to dissect and deduce.

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