Ornament--8,000 Years: An Illustrated Handbook of Motifs

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ornamental motif books on specific styles, traditions, and periods abound. The title of this book suggests a greater inclusiveness than is actually delivered. Only nine groups of motifs are used to represent 8000 years of decorative design. Some categories are broad and general-spirals, scrolls, and animal ornament, for example-while others, like the Indian lotus motif and the palmette, are more specific. Six hundred large and strongly contrasted black-and-white line drawings and a comprehensive index help overcome the work's uneven subject approach. Examples are drawn largely from the British Museum. While rich in detail and research, the text only partially updates Flinders Petrie's 1930 classic Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World. Important, nevertheless, for large decorative arts, design, and archaeology collections.-Russell T. Clement, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, Ut.
Barbara Jacobs
Of all ornaments and their origins, most notorious is the swastika--which, as Wilson points out, was first a Sanskrit word meaning "well-being," "fortune," and "luck." Other decorative motifs may not necessarily carry that perception-reality gap, yet all of the author's nine groupings of patterns were, at one time or another, imbued with different symbolic definitions. Wisely saving her sources until the end, she carefully details the histories and chronologies of well-recognized motifs, divided into spirals, animals, Egyptian plants (lotus, papyrus, lily), leaves, the Indian lotus, the Celtic scroll, rosettes, and geometrical constructions. The more than 600 black-and-white illustrations provide an invaluable reference for students and professionals in arts and architecture, and some eye-opening information for talented amateurs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810932609
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1994
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface 8
Introduction 11
1 Spirals, scrolls, meanders and key patterns 27
Spirals, scrolls and meandering motifs in the art of neolithic farming communities 33
Spirals and scrolls in Mediterranean Bronze Age art 37
Spirals and scrolls in the European and Scandinavian Bronze Age 42
Meander and key patterns in Greek and Roman decoration 44
The swastika and other 'rotating' motifs 47
2 Animals and mythological and imaginary creatures as motifs in ornament 51
The bull, the lion, and other real or imaginary creatures in the art of the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean 58
Motifs from mythology and legend in Greek and Roman decorative art 62
A new style of ornament with animal motifs in northern Europe 67
The signs of the zodiac, bestiaries, fables and heraldry 76
The taotie mask and the dragon-like kui motifs in Bronze Age China 81
The 'animal style' in the art of the nomadic cattle herders on the Eurasian steppes 84
The Chinese dragon, 'phoenix' and Dog of Fo 87
The animal art of the 'Chilkat dancing blanket' 93
3 Three motifs from ancient Egypt: the lotus, the papyrus and the lily 97
The Egyptian lotus motif 101
The papyrus motif 104
The 'lily of the South' motif 105
Egyptian plant-like motifs in the art of the ancient Near East and the Aegean 107
The lotus motif in Greece 108
The egg-and-dart mouldings of the Ionic order 110
4 The palmette 113
Rising lobes and supporting spirals: the Minoan contribution? 118
The palmette in Greek, Etruscan and Roman art 120
5 Leaf borders, leaf scrolls and the acanthus 125
Laurel, olive, vine and other realistic leaf borders in Greek ornament 132
The vine scroll and the tree in Christian art 135
The acanthus 136
The all-purpose leaf in the East and the 'arabesque' 138
6 The Indian lotus 143
The Indian lotus motif in Buddhist art 147
The Chinese flower scroll and the fantastic flower of Islam 149
7 The Celtic scroll 153
The Celtic scroll motif in Continental Europe 156
The Celtic scroll motif in the British Isles 158
The revival of Celtic art in Ireland 162
8 The rosette and intersecting circles motif 165
The Rosette and star motif in the ancient Near East 169
9 Twists, plaits, interlace and geometrical constructions 173
Geometrical constructions as a basis for ornament 183
Motifs based on geometrical constructions and interlace in Roman, early Christian and Medieval art 186
Geometric interlace in Islamic art 193
The interlacing and geometrical art of the Kuba 195
Notes on the illustrations 197
Illustration Acknowledgements 202
Selected sources 202
Index 205
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