Guilloche - Encyclopedia




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GUILLOCHE, a French word for an ornament, either painted or carved, which was one of the principal decorative bands employed by the Greeks in their temples or on their vases. Guilloches are single, double or triple; they consist of a series of circles equidistant one, from the other and enclosed in a band which winds round them and interlaces. This guilloche is of Asiatic origin and was largely employed in the decoration of the Assyrian palaces, where it was probably copied from Chaldaean work, as there is an early example at Erech which dates from the time of Gudea (2294 B.C.). The ornament as painted by the Greeks has almost entirely disappeared, but traces are found in the temple of Nemesis at Rhamnus; and on the terra-cotta slabs by which the timber roofs of Greek temples were protected, it is painted in colours which are almost as brilliant as when first produced, those of the Treasury of Gela at Olympia being of great beauty. These examples are double guilloches, with two rows of circles, each with an independent interlacing band and united by a small arc with palmette inside; in both the single and double guilloches of Greek work there is a flower in the centre of the circles. In the triple guilloche, the centre row of circles comes half-way between the others, and the enclosing band crosses diagonally both ways, interlacing alternately. The best example of the triple guilloche is that which is carved on the torus moulding of the base and on the small convex moulding above the echinus of the capitals of the columns of the Erechtheum at Athens. It was largely employed in Roman work, and the single guilloche is found almost universally as a border in mosaic pavements, not only in Italy but throughout Europe. In the Renaissance in Italy it was also a favourite enrichment for borders and occasionally in France and England.

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