INTERIOR DECORATION: There are few branches of knowledge which have been more neglected than the origin, character, and adaptation of the different styles of Interior Decoration. This is the more remarkable when we consider the science, research, and practical experience that have been brought to bear on the different arts and sciences, at the present day.
It will, therefore, be our object, in the following pages, not only to give the practical information necessary to the execution of the accompanying designs, but also to investigate the rise, progress, and decline of the various styles of decoration, as used by the architects of the present period — such as the Greek, Roman, Arabesque, Pompeian, Gothic, Cinque Cento. Francois Premier, Elizabethan, and the more modern French. In doing this, great care will be taken to divest the work of any bias to one particular style, to the disparagement of the rest, but to lay before the profession and the public such useful knowledge as will enable every one to distinguish between the beautiful and the imperfect.
If we turn to the pages of antiquity, we shall find the Athenians displayed the same simplicity and elegance in their interiors that so strongly characterized the exterior of their buildings; for it is chiefly from the poetical and historical works of the Greek authors that we can gather information as to the manner of fittings up employed by the Greek artists.
It has been very frequently remarked that the works of Homer contain but few descriptions of the architectural decorations of that period, except in one or two instances where he describes the walls of the palace of Alcinous “which were covered with a blue cornice or capping.” He seems also to.
In the works of Pausanias, we find Micon recorded as the artist engaged in the decoration of the temple of Theseus, at Athens, of which he gives the following description: “Near the Gymnasium is the temple of Theseus, at which are pictures representing the Athenians fighting the Amazons; and there is also painted in the temple of Theseus the battle of the Centaurs and Lapithae. Theseus is there represented killing a Centaur while the others are engaged in an equal contest.”
From the present ruinous condition of the Attic remains, but very little can be ascertained with certainty of the precise manner in which they were painted, although many instances are still to be found in which colour and gilding were much used. Colour was doubtless originally introduced on the edifices of the primitive eastern nations, as in China, both to protect from the atmosphere by means of repulsive materials and to beautify the appearance of timber and burnt clay, which were used in early building.
The taste for colouring and gilding their edifices was evidently derived by the Greeks from the Egyptians. It is almost needless to call to mind the external painting of the temple of the isle of Philoee, that on the great Sphinx, and on the colossal head from the Memnonium, or the interior decoration of the temple of Dendorah, of the excavations of Ybsambul, of the Theban tombs. Diodorus Siculus describes a peristyle belonging to the tomb of Osymandis at Thebes in Egypt, where the ceiling was decorated with stars on a blue ground.
It appears from a description of the Parthenon that its painting — remains of which are still distinctly perceptible on various parts of the building — was of a character correspondent with early Grecian ornament.
Greek Temple Decorations
Some idea may be formed of the attention bestowed by the Greeks on the decorations of their temples from the circumstance that sculpture, stucco painting, rich mosaic, and inlaid marbles were all used by them in their decoration. The sister art of painting was frequently united with their sculpture; for it appears that “low relievos in stucco were used by the ancients to give effect to their paintings; and Pliny tells us that Pandasias painted the battle of the Centaurs and Lapithag on the shield of the statue of Minerva, the bas-relief of which was wrought by Myos: at the same time, Phidias, the sculptor, was assisted by his nephew Panenus, the painter, in finishing that statue by beautifying it with colours, but chiefly the drapery.”
Sculpture and Bas-Reliefs
The sculpture and bas-reliefs as discovered at the temple of iEgina also certainly partook of those enrichments, having a light blue ground and the naked figures distinguished by tints and their attributes, armour, and the contiguous shields and inscriptions sparkling with gilding.
The fertility of genius in their great sculptor Phidias — who was equally skilful in every department of his art — is truly surprising. He seems to have been employed in the execution of almost every monument of the Torentic art at this period; and from the number of his commissions, more than a general inspection of any of them could scarcely be possible. When executing the Minerva of the Parthenon at the Athenian Acropolis, he had already completed or was engaged on — besides many other statues and groups in ivory and gold — five other statues of that goddess, probably.