Architectural Ornamentation – The Anthemion Motif

anthemion moti
Victorian illustration of the anthemion motif – lotus flower with palm leaf.

I always have my camera with me to snap attractive colour combinations or interesting patterns. Architectural and sculptural details are a great source of diverse ornamentation such as the anthemion motif.  The design is based on combining the lotus flower with palm leaves and has a long history of being reinterpreted and reworked over the centuries. The term ‘anthemion motif’ as a decorative expression appears to have sprung into use in the mid-nineteenth century with anthemion literally meaning ‘flower’ in Ancient Greek.

Ancient Egyptian lotus
Victorian drawing of Ancient Egyptian lotus flowers.

The Victorians were great organisers and cataloguers not only did they classify the wonders of the natural world – beetles and finches spring to mind, but they also applied their energy to sort and order the history of the human-made world. On the 15th December 1856, Owen Jones published the now famous Victorian reference guide to decoration – ‘The Grammar of Ornament’.

Ancient Greek motif
Victorian representation of Ancient Greek lotus-palmette design.

Looking through this beautiful, illustrated book of decorative details it is possible to follow the migration of the lotus-palmette motif from Ancient Egypt, through time to the Ancient Greeks and across the ancient seas giving rise to this Etruscan version currently displayed in the British Museum.

Etruscan sculptural detail
Etruscan carved stone showing the lotus-palmette design, the anthemion motif.

Now, in the 21st century we take for granted the near immediate global transmission of ideas, image, text and music on the Internet, yet there is something pleasing in knowing that we are part of a continuum of the interaction and exchange of designs.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

2 thoughts on “Architectural Ornamentation – The Anthemion Motif”

  1. Hi Agnes, Enjoyed this foray into art history. You have plenty to teach me 🙂 It reminds me I never did post those photos from Prague that I had promised earlier. I might get to do a follow up post at some time. Also, guess what? Our National Gallery in Canberra was having a Turner exhibition. It has just finished. Maybe some of them were on loan from Margate 🙂 GG

    1. Hello GG, What a good start to the day your comment about Turner/Canberra/Margate made me chuckle. Only yesterday my father and I were discussing what all the visitors to the UK make of our cock-eyed way of doing things. We think we are pretty pathetic!!

      Glad you are going to keep posting. Thought your 10/11 reasons for blogging was a very thought-provoking post. Keep smiling, Agnes

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