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An Illustrated Glossary - page 2

This page provides an illustrated explanation of 63 art terms which are often used in this web site. A few Italian terms which are not included in the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art Terms, are written in italics. The terms in the upper table are linked with the definitions/illustrations of the lower table. Click here for the names of the Stones of Rome.

acanthus in page 1aedicule in page 1amorino in page 1
apse in page 1architrave in page 1atlantes in page 1
balustrade in page 1bas-relief in page 4broken pediment in page 1
bucranium in page 1bugnato in page 1calotta in this page
capital in this pagecartouche in this pagecaryatid in this page
cassettone in this pagecentaur in this pagecornice in page 1
cornucopia in this pageCosmati work in this pageCupid in page 1
dome in this pagedrum in this pageentablature in page 1
festoon in page 1frieze in page 1gisant in this page
graffito in this pageGreek cross in page 3Greek key pattern in page 3
grotesque in this pagegrotto in page 3herm in page 3
high relief in page 4hippocamp in page 3inlay in page 1
keystone in page 3lantern in this pageLatin cross in page 3
loggia in page 3lunette in page 3metope in page 1
nereid in page 3nymphaeum in page 3order in this page
paliotto in page 1parapet in page 3portico in page 3
putto in page 1quadratura in page 3relief in page 4
rose window in page 4rotunda in page 3sarcophagus in page 4
satyr in this pageSerliana in page 4solomonic in page 4
sotto in su in page 3triglyph in page 1trophy in page 4
Vitruvian opening in page 4Vitruvian scroll in page 4volute in page 4

calotta; dome; drum; lantern
dome (also called cupola after the same Italian word) means the rounded vault of a temple (Pantheon) and later on of churches and palaces.
It can be distinguished in three parts:
a) drum (A) often having a polygonal shape and with thick walls to support the weight of the
b) calotta (B) the curved section of the dome which is often composed of an inner and an outer calotta;
c) lantern (C) a small and decorated structure with windows.
The image shows the dome of S. Maria del Fiore in Florence designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
capital; order
Greek temples were designed according to three standard modules (order) which mainly differed in the design of the capital, the upper part of the column immediately below the architrave. The earliest design is called Doric order and it was followed by the Ionic order (characterized by two volutes) and by the Corinthian order (decorated with acanthus leaves). The Romans combined Ionic and Corinthian orders in an order called composite.
The images show (left to right): a Doric capital in the Parthenon of Athens; a Ionic capital of a temple in Veii now in Piazza Colonna in Rome; a composite capital of Olimpieion in Athens.
a cartouche is a decorative tablet imitating a scroll with rolled-up ends, usually bearing an inscription. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed a gigantic cartouche in S. Maria in Aracoeli.
The image shows a cartouche above the entrance of Collegio Ghislieri in Via Giulia in Rome.
According to Robert Graves (The Greek Myths), Carya, daughter of a Laconian king, was beloved of Dyonisus, but died suddenly and was metamorphosed by him into a walnut-tree. Artemis brought the news to the Laconians, who built a temple to Artemis Caryatis, from which caryatids - female statues used as columns - take their name. The image shows the decorative caryatids of Scloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, Germany.
A male figure is called atlantes.
a cassettoni is the Italian locution characterizing a Renaissance wooden ceiling divided into deep cavities.
At the beginning of the Renaissance the cavities had a regular shape, but later on a more elaborated design prevailed together with a richly painted and gilded decoration.
See some other ceilings of this type.
The image shows the ceiling of S. Grisogono decorated with the heraldic symbols of Cardinal Scipione Borghese Caffarelli.
centaur; satyr
centaur in Greek mythology is a horse with the body, the arms and the face of a man; perhaps a reference to archaic moon dances by men disguised as horses. Centaurs are often shown in battle scenes.
satyrs are mythological woodland half goat half human deities. They are usually portrayed in lewd attitudes.
The images show a satyr and a centaur in the reliefs in the courtyard of Palazzo Spada in Rome.
Cornucopia is one of the horns of Amaltheia, the goat-nymph who nursed Zeus. She gave it to Zeus who presented it to Adrasteia and Io, two other nymphs: it became the horn of plenty (Latin: cornus=horn, copia=abundance), which is always filled with whatever food or drink its owner may desire.
A very common decoration theme, cornucopia is often shown in a very standardized way (see the cornucopias in Porta del Popolo in Rome).
An exception is the long cornucopia held by the River Tiber in a colossal statue now in Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.
Cosmati work
Cosmati is the generic name given to families of Roman decorators who made use of pieces of marbles and other stones which had been part of Roman temples and buildings.
Their activity spanned from the beginning of the XIIth century to the end of the XIIIth century. A recurring design is a spiral around a disc of red porphyry.
The best examples of Cosmati works can be found in the cloister of S. Paolo fuori le Mura, in the portico of the Cathedral of Civitacastellana and in the pavements of several churches in Rome.
The image shows a detail of the pavement of S. Maria in Cosmedin in Rome.
Cosmati work
gisant is a word of French origin used with reference to funerary monuments where the deceased is portrayed lying on the lid of a sarcophagus having the shape of a bed.
For a page on the funerary monuments to the popes click here.
The image shows a detail of the monument to the English Cardinal of Hartford in S. Cecilia in Rome.
graffito; grotesque
graffito means scratched and it defines a drawing technique based on two colours which gives the impression to the viewer that the colour on the surface is scratched in order to show a different colour under it.
grotesque is a decorative theme used by the Romans and rediscovered at the beginning of the XVIth century in the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea. Because the ruins had the appearance of caves (It. grotta) the decorations were called grotesque. They show small figures of men and animals, foliage and amorini, often arranged to form a sort of chandelier (candelabra).
The image shows a detail of Palazzo Vitelli della Cannoniera in Cittą di Castello.

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