The Ionic Order

Ionic Order absorbs and resumes the oriental motifs, while enriching decorations adorning the architectural structures.

Two classical columns with a tree surrounding it. the green and yellow branches wrap around, while a wooden beam sits on top.
Ionic Order- Classical columns in the gardens for the pergola at Eltham Palace, south-east London. 18th century

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/52b0a7f4-f025-4bc8-b3e4-ceb620d5eb83 by It’s No Game

The Origin of the Ionic Order

The Temple of Aphrodite, built in the Ionic order in stages during the Roman period (from 1st century BC to 2nd century AD) and later converted into a Christian basilica, Aphrodisias, Caria, Turkey. Columns in ruins, vegetation covers the foreground, blue skies surround the ruins.
The Temple of Aphrodite, built in the Ionic order in stages during the Roman period (from 1st century BC to 2nd century AD) and later converted into a Christian basilica, Aphrodisias, Caria, Turkey

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/2a0bc8e0-1b1b-4128-93b0-e1e50297c6e7 by Following Hadrian

The Ionic Order was born in Ionia, a coastal region of central Anatolia, in the early 6th century B.C. Many Greek settlements began at that location. It is primarily identified by its capital, with its rolled-up cushion-like form on either side creating the distinctive volutes. Vitruvius describes it as the “combination of the severity,” of the Doric Order and “the delicacy,”of the Corinthian Order. It is possible to identify this style by the elements that derive from these two Greek, classical styles.

How to Distinguish a Ionic Building

Depending on the location and the time in which the single edifice was built, we can find different features withing the Ionic order. The so-called “attic base,” which it is the best known, is most common. The Romans used to shape columns, at the top and at the bottom with two torus, divided by a scotia (hollow conclave molding). These are the main features of the Ionic style:

  • The shaft of the column is put on the base and has grooves in a rounded edge;
  • The capital is composed of two volutes in a spiral shape, in which ovules and arrows alternate;
  • The abacus above the capital is flattened, and the echinus is small;

Above the capital, it is possible to find an entablature. It is composed by a tripartite architrave, with three overlapping plates. Each one is higher and more prominent than the one that lays below.

The frieze lies on it, and often has painted representations, developed along the entire perimeter of the temple.

Renaissance architectural theorists were inspired by Vitruvius, and looked toward the Ionic order, comparing it to the Doric and Corinthian orders. The Ionic is a natural order for post-Renaissance libraries and courts of justice.

An illustration of the Five Architectural Orders engraved for the Encyclopédie, vol. 18, showing the Tuscan and Doric orders (top row); two versions of the Ionic order (center row); Corinthian and Composite orders (bottom row).
An illustration of the Five Architectural Orders engraved for the Encyclopédie, vol. 18, showing the Tuscan and Doric orders (top row); two versions of the Ionic order (center row); Corinthian and Composite orders (bottom row).

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_order

Iconic Ionic Temples

  • The Temple of Hera, on Samos, was the first of the greatest Ionic temples. It was built by the architect Rhoikos between 570 and 560 BC, but stood only for a decade due to an earthquake.
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a 6th-century Ionic temple, and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Parthenon, although it conforms mainly to the Doric order, also has some Ionic elements.
  • The Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena are also examples of the pure Ionic mode. They are both located on the Athens Acropolis.
The Erechtheion or Erechtheum. an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. A woman stands taking a photo in the bottom left hand corner. The building is deteriorating, although the central columns still stand around the building. Moreover, there are blue skies which fill the background.
The Erechtheion or Erechtheum. An ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens dedicated to Athena and Poseidon

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/8184c0a2-1bbc-4f02-b66a-94e71b035b18 by jdlasica

Close up of the temple of Athena Nike. There are three stairs that stand before three columns of the temple on the right hand side. Moreover, on the left, there is a column which is very close to the camera.
Temple of Athena Nike, V secolo BC (425 BC); Atene, Greece.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/a096257d-fe86-4f54-8dd6-4f97440aebb7 by Weekend Wayfarers

Modern Examples of Ionic Style

There are many buildings embodying Ionic style’s features: the Cathedral of Treviso and the Crystal Palace in Madrid. These structures are why everyone considers ionic style a classical one.

Crystal Palace in Madrid; a glass building with window arches that make up the bottom part of the building. There is a tower-like structure that sits at the top of the building (left), and a tree that sits on the right side of the photo. Moreover, blue skies occupy the background.
the Crystal Palace in Madrid

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/1c4c55c6-6b49-4e04-843b-ee92e62b939b by davidjlee


Info source: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ionic-column-177515

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