Pin It

Architecture at Edward Worth Library

Just another WordPress site




André Félibien, Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture, et des autres arts qui en dependent. Avec un dictionnaire des termes propres à chacun de ces arts (Paris, 1690), p. 21 (Ionic order).

The Ionic order also has two distinct varieties known as Greek Ionic and Roman Ionic. The base can be of the Asiatic type or Attic type. The Asiatic base consists of a lower torus decorated with horizontal fluting and reeding (parallel convex mouldings) and a torus with reeding above it separated by a concave moulding called a scotia and small narrow flat horizontal mouldings called fillets in between. An Attic base is composed of an upper and larger lower torus, separated by a scotia with fillets. Greek Ionic shafts are almost invariably fluted with vertical fillets separating the flutes, but Roman Ionic shafts are often wholly unfluted.

The Ionic order is primarily identified by its capital, with its spiral scroll on either side creating the distinctive volutes, of which there are normally four on a parallel-sided Greek Ionic capital. This capital has two distinct elevations – one with the two volutes on the front and the baluster side at either end resembling a baluster laid on its side joining the volutes, which is illustrated in Figure II of Félibien’s depiction of the Ionic order that shows a sketch of a baluster side of a capital with foliage decoration. This resulted in a problem at the corners of porticos and colonnades, which led to the design of an angle- or corner-capital that abutted two fronts and two sides in order to obtain volutes on both faces of the corner. The two adjacent volutes at the external angle are splayed outwards with concave curved faces at 45°, while two adjacent partial volutes are located diagonally opposite at the inner angle within the portico. This somewhat unsatisfactory arrangement was superseded by the Romans, who developed an angular capital, also known as a Scamozzi capital, with four identical faces and, therefore, eight volutes projecting under the four corners of the abacus (slab crowning the capital), thus doing away with the need for a corner capital as all the capitals were the same on all four sides. Egg-and-dart mouldings often decorate a small convex moulding between the volutes called an echinus.

The frieze of the Ionic order may be a plain band, can be richly ornamented with continuous sculpture, or may also be pulvinated (bulging in a convex profile), the latter of which is illustrated in Félibien’s depiction of the Ionic order in Figures I & II. Bed mouldings that appear under the projecting cornice can be very rich including dentil-courses (small tightly spaced blocks), egg-and-dart, or other ornament. Additional mouldings of bead-and-reel occur between the fasciae of the architrave (two or three bands each projecting slightly beyond the one below) in more elaborate versions of the order. The Temple of Artemis/Diana at Ephesus, sculptural fragments of which are in the British Museum, was built in the Ionic order.


Samuel Marolois, Mathematicvm opvs absolvtissimvm : continens geometriae, fortificationis, architecturæ, & perspectivæ theoreticæ ac practicæ regulas, demonstrationes, & figuras perfectissimas studio atque opera Alberti Girardi … ; recognitum ac multis notis illustratum (Amsterdam, 1633), 5 vols. in 4, vol. 4, plate M (Ionic detail).

Marolois’ illustration includes an entablature of the Ionic order from the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome with a dentil course above egg-and-dart ornament. The neck of the Ionic capital is decorated with floral ornament and the echinus with egg-and-dart, and the shaft is fluted on the left-hand half of the column, while the capital is plain and the shaft is unfluted on the right-hand half.


Chitham, Robert, The classical orders of architecture, incorporating James Gibbs and the American classical tradition by Calder Loth, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2005).

Curl, James Stevens & Wilson, Susan, The Oxford dictionary of architecture, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 2016).

Jones, M. Wilson, et al., ‘Orders, architectural’ entry in Oxford Art Online.

Text: Antoine Mac Gaoithín, Library Assistant at the Edward Worth Library.