"Classical" Vocabulary You Need to Know to Understand the Renaissance


asymmetrical - one side is bigger/heavier than the other

BCE - before common era, used in place of ‘BC’

CE - common era, used in place of ‘AD’

components of form - design, material, texture, relief, placement

composition - how the various elements are arranged by line, color, and shape

encaustic - uses a hot wax medium to bind the paint to the surface

entasis - a slight bulge in the shaft of a column giving the impression the column is being pressed down on and is swelling; makes the column look more organic, like wood

eurythmic pose - an art pose to show the body off in the best way

formal analysis - analysis based on what you can see and touch

icon - an image with a symbolic content or meaning

iconographic analysis - analysis based on icons and symbols

idealized - representing something according to a preconceived ideal form or type

in vino veritas - ‘in wine there is truth’

monotheism - one god

medium - the substance that binds the paint to the surface

Paints with associated medium -

fresco - water and lime (on wet plaster) is the medium that binds the pigment to the surface of the picture plane

encaustic - wax is the medium that binds the pigment to the surface of the picture plane

oil - oil is the medium that binds the pigment to the surface of the picture plane

tempera - egg yolk is the medium that binds the pigment to the surface of the picture plane

pigment - the colorant in paint

polytheism - many gods

relief - figures projecting from a background of which they are a part

types of relief - additive, subtractive, high, low (bas)

symmetrical - equal and balanced on both sides of a lateral line

human body has bilateral symmetry

tensile strength - lateral flexibility of a material

wood - high tensile strength

stone - low tensile strength


Apollo - rational, order

centaur - the animal side of man

circle - continuing, eternity

Dionysus - irrational, rebirth

dome - heaven, eternity

study hint

be able to take apart a building in terms of it components

Historical Background

  • many city-states - e.g. Athens, Sparta, Corinth
  • city-states formed League of Delos to fight Persia
  • 100-200 bce Athens became the ‘backwater’ and Rome became the center of the western world
  • Romans borrowed a lot from the Greeks
  • 400 ce Rome was in decline
  • 600/700 ce - 1300 ce Dark Ages, not truly dark, a lot was preserved by the church
  • 1300 ce rebirth of classicism
  • Concept of Space and How to Span It
  • post and lintel
  • problem with materials with low tensile strength
  • corbeled arch
  • Romans perfected the arch by use of the keystone
  • vault
    Greek Orders
  • 300 bce - 100 bce
  • flutes give the impression of taller and thinner, also used to counter horizontal seams of drums
  • organic entity - entasis makes it look more organic, like wood
  • 3 orders
        1. Doric


      simple shaft and capital

      frieze composed of triglyph and metope

      2. Ionic


      more ornamental

      capital has a volute that looks like an ‘I’

        1. Corinthian
      composite of Doric and Ionic

      long thin columns

      capital has acanthus leaves

      Roman Orders

      1. put column on a pedestal, elevating it, giving it more status
      2. 2 types
        1. Composite



          example of schema (Ionic and Corinthian) and correction (Composite)

        3. Tuscan
      elevated Doric column without the fluting
      1. 450 bce, Greek - Golden Age of Perikles
      2. architects - Iktinos and Kallikrates
      3. sculpture - Phidias
      4. marble and stone
      5. Doric columns
      6. squared-off rectangle turned at an angle, 
      7. faces east towards rising sun
      8. set at an angle to show ornamentation, and to make person feel small compared to the god and temple 
      9. building within a building, with a peristyle outside
          • stylobate - the base of the building
          stylo - column bate - base

          Panathanaic Frieze

          • inner frieze - panathanaic procession
          pan - all athen - Athens

          people frontal oriented

          • outer frieze - 

    metope - idealized figures in relief, symmetrical
      depicts The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs The Centaurs (half man half horse) get drunk and attack the women. The Lapiths and Centaurs fight. The god Apollo arrives to restore order and sends the Centaurs home. The story indicates the Appollian Dionysian Conflict. The battle between the human side and the animal side, between rational and irrrational.
      • pediment - sculptures were originally painted using encaustic method

    The Parthenon is the schema and the Pantheon is the correction.
      • 120 ce, Roman
      • pantheon means all gods
      • polytheistic
      • gods arranged around the dome
      • concrete and brick inner core, marble facade inside and out
      • Corinthian order
      • the dome is an extension of arch building technology built on top of a drum
      constructed of concrete and volcanic stone
      • form and function is combined in the dome’s coffers
      it draws the eye upward

      adds perspective

      ribbing works as a structure

      needs less material and weighs less