The figures denominated Persians, Atlantes, and the like, are in the same category as Caryatides.The object, or apparent object, in the use of caryatides is for the purpose of support. There is no case in which this cannot be better accomplished by a solid support, such as a column, the use of the attic order, or some other equivalent means. But the variety in quest of which the eye is always in search, and the picturesque effect which may be induced by the employment of caryatides, leads often to their necessary employment The plain truth is, that they are admissible only as objects necessary for an extreme degree of decoration, and otherwise employed are not to be tolerated. There can, as we imagine, be no doubt that the most successful application of these figure as supports was by Jean Gougeon in the Louvre; as was the most unfortunate in the use of them in a church in the New Road, which at the time of its erection was much lauded, but which we hope will never be imitated by any British architect.

As to the use of what' are called Persians or male figures, originally in Persian dresses, to designate, as Vitruvius tells us, the victory over their country by the Greeks, the observations above made equally apply, and in the present day their application will not bear a moment's suspense in consideration.

caryatides toulouse hotel béringuier-maynier
Toulouse, Hotel BĂ©ringuier-Maynier

We have been much amused with the gravity wherewith Sir William Chambers not with his usual sound sense, treats the claims of the personages whose merits we are discussing : he says, " Male figures may be introduced with propriety in arsenals or galleries of armour, in guard-rooms and other military places, where they should represent the figures of captives, or else of martial virtues; such as strength, valour, wisdom, prudence, fortitude, and the like." He writes more like himself when he says, " There are few nobler thoughts in the remains of antiquity than Inigo Jones's court" (in the design for the great palace at Whitehall), "the effect of which, if properly executed, would have been surprising and great in the highest degree."

cariatide parthenon

What is called a tenninut, which is, in fact, nothing more than a portion of an inverted obelisk, we shall not observe upon further than to say that it is a form, as applied to architecture, held in abhorrence. For the purpose, when detached and isolated, of supporting busts in gardens, it may perhaps be occasionally tolerated: further we have nothing to say in its favour. Those who seek for additional instruction on what are called termini, may find some account of them, as the boundary posts of land among the Romans, in books relating to the antiquities of that people.


REF: Williams Chambers, A treatise on civil architecture in which the principles of that art are laid down and illustrated by a great number of plates accurately designed and elegantly engraved by the best hands (London) 1759

Joseph Gwilt: An Encyclopedia of Architecture

Pair of caryatides
pair of caryatides carved on an oak panels, Henri VIII, 16th c.

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