Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Three columns on Venice

Image of the main Island of Venice, at Dawn, looking out at columns (wooden piles) in the water.Dear Gentle Reader,

This picture shows wooden columns in Venice. Well, the peeping tops of them. 

e-Builders in the e-audience might call them piles, as in piles to drive into the mud to get down to bedrock to provide a foundation for buildings.

Or, in this case, they provide a navigational aid to the maritime traffic in the Venetian Lagoon.

If they were all removed, they would form a pretty big pile, but that is not my point of interest, today.

As has been pointed out, Venice is fairly old and she has bought herself luxuries like war galleys, paintings, and beautiful homes to live and work in.

She has always been a stylish lady, and she has slavishly supported her own arts. For example, since 1895 she has supported the biennale, a biannual modern arts exhibition.

This is a well-travelled, well-learned lady.

Image of a Corinthian column, from the Basilica San Marco, in Venice.We can see it in everywhere in Venice. We can see it in her columns. 

We can see it in this first column, the one standing beside us.

Most of us know our standard Greek columns, which form the three classical orders of architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. 

For those who want a refresher these are: 

Doric (no base, fluted shaft, no capital{capital is the ornamentation at the top of the shaft, connecting the shaft to the part of the building the shaft supports}); 

Ionic (with a base, sometimes fluted shaft, with a capital like a rolled up scroll); and 

Corinthian (elaborate base, smooth shaft, capital with luxuriant leaves). 

For the finicky ones amongst you, we can add the two Roman additions to the classical orders. 

First, the Tuscan (or Roman Doric) (with a base and a capital of alternating disks, smooth shaft). 

Last, the Composite (strong base, smooth shaft, elaborate capital blending Ionic and Corinthian elements).

Done? Essentially, we are. 

At least, from a Western perspective.

But not if we look east.

And we know that the Venetians not only looked east, they traded with the East. And sometimes they battled the East, too. 

They certainly had extensive land holdings in the East... 

So the Venetians had a wider perspective...

If we look to the East, we find columns not talked about in our standard Western syllabus.

For example, we find Syrian columns. 

Syrian columns are thick, rectilinear columns decorated with vegetative scenes on their faces, no base to speak of, but elaborately carved rectilinear capitals with further vegetative details.

Image of a Syrian column, from in front of the Basilica San Marco, in Venice
This column, the second one we are looking at, is found, like the previous one, in the Pallazo San Marco, in front of the Basilica San Marco. 

There are also Syrian columns, with classical Greek orders on top of them, in the old Venetian hospital on the main island, in the Campo di San Giovanni San Paolo.

So now we are out of our comfort zone only by traveling geographically, to the East, and by traveling slightly backwards in time.

Lets travel forward in time for our third column... we can find this column all over modern Venice. 

This column, our third, is very slight and very slender. 

It breaks with all traditions because, while the column has flutings, the flutings are at right angles to the direction of the column...

I know of no name yet, so I shall name our third column...

Image of a modern column of Venice, found everywhere in Venice. It appears to be composite in materials, with a steel base and the visible column being a sleeve of orange industrial plastic piping, with grooves for bending perpendicular to the direction of the piping...
...The modern column...

The modern column (Modern column?) is found everywhere in Venice.

It appears to be composite, but in its building materials. 

It has an internal core of steel piping, and the decorative, visible section of the column is from a sleeve of orange piping. 

This allows the Modern column to take an irregular, serpentine appearance, sort of like baroque Solomonic columns. The Modern column also has flutings, like the Doric column has, yet its flutings run perpendicular to the direction of the piping. 

This allows the piping to bend easily and provides its charming, though disconcerting, irregular serpentine effect.

So there you have it, Gentle Readers. 

Three columns on Venice.

Visit in person and I guarantee you will find more.



Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Gentle Reader,

I would like to draw your attention to another whimsical column.

This one was discovered in Vienna and was photographed by Merisi......

(The description of the column is found in the second comment after the posting [yours truly's]...)

Anonymous said...
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Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Armageddon Thru To You,

Quite the sales pitch; I hope you are not purveying Armageddon directly.

I had occasion to consider it once, at least the idea of the big bomb.

Plese go to the labels on the right hand side of the site and find cockroach.

Click it, please. There are two relevant stories. One very short, one not so short.

Thank you for visiting.


Richard said...

Very funny! Thanks for a good evening laugh.

Sepiru Chris said...


You are welcome and thank you for "Belly Psalm".

Crafty Green Poet said...

this is very entertaining, I've always been fascinated by columns so was immediately drawn in by your descriptions. Edinburgh has a lot of Moderm columns too, sometimes less tastefully finished in carpet.

Sepiru Chris said...


Thanks, and you are a haiku enthusiast too! Egads, we are everywhere. (I don't know if I can legitimately say we, as I have just started after a pause of a few decades. Well two at least. But I like the possibilities in haiku.)

Anyway, thank your very much.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Venice - probably my favourite place in the whole world - I have been many times and its magic never lessens. Anyone who complains about the smell has no soul.

Virginia Lady said...

That was great! I love how you so carefully describe the columns for those of us who might not be able to recall the differences, and I love the description of the last column.

Sepiru Chris said...

Weaver of Grass,

I agree so thoroughly. One of the friends that we went to Venice, one of the two German museum curators, said that if he was told that for the rest of his life he could go nowhere on vacation but Venice, he would not be unhappy.

I cannot fully agree with his sentiment, but I could spend many, many weeks in Venice. I am trying to imagine the consulting gig I could have that would justify renting a large palazzo (with fabulous heating...) for a year...


Ramblings of a Virginia Lady,

You are more than welcome. I had to double check a couple myself; its amazing how much stuff I forget every year. I think I have well past the tipping point of desperately trying to remember what I already know, let alone trying to learn more...

Well, its not that yet, but I fear it will be soon.

Thanks for visiting... tomorrow the backstory on the title...


bindu said...

Hilarious! I was deeply into understanding the architecture (that I know nothing about), so the modern column sneaked up on me. :)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Wonderful! I read your columns-post late last night, and have observed similarities in our own architecture while out and about today.

I particularly like the vegetative decoration on the Syrian column.

However, as an artistic statement, the Modern column wins head over heels for me. Here, I feel the creator was contrasting the enduring inner life - the soul - of Venice with the transient yet flexible veneer of modern day living. The perpendicular-running flutings symbolize departure from tradition.

Thank you Sepiru Chris!

(P.S. I think I've got more neck than shoulders, really ...!)

Sepiru Chris said...


So my design won out (that was precisely the effect I was hoping to have)!

SO glad that you enjoyed it.


I considered putting something like that into the post; then I recognised that the post was flexible and iconic enough to hold that on its own, and the some would see the inner truths.

I can't tell if that makes you more heart, more soul, or more brain, than shoulders.

PS I am with you on the neck, but twisting Sir I.N.'s words to read that he arrived at his height in life by standing on the necks of others would make him sound like a modern-day, newly-made plutocrat--and I wasn't sure that would go down too well, except with the Leibnitz crowd who have always claimed (with much substance) calculus for their man, Gottfried (Leibniz 1646-1716).


Merisi said...

Sometimes piling 'em up does a column make. Until it falls victim to extraneous circumstances. *snap*

Thank you for the shout-out! :-)

I shall return to Venice soon, 16 days and counting.

Junosmom said...

Interesting, that in my education of Art History, I only remember the three western forms. I wonder if I've forgotten Syrian or wasn't it taught? The modern pipe reminds me of what we call "drain tile" but here I've only seen it in black or bright yellow. I wonder if it is the same stuff?

Sepiru Chris said...


You are more than welcome. Luxor (Thebes) has many columns that look like yours, but not so sweet. I was sure I had a link to your site; it seems to be gone.

Here was what I was talking about, folks... Merisi's site mentioned earlier....

And, Merisi, I am so jealous! Have a fantastic time!


You probably remember correctly. I only learned about them when I started to study near and middle eastern civilisations for fun.