1. Serlio, Architettura (1537-1551), IV


This is to be found in the writings of Vitruvius in the seventh chapter of the fourth book: the height of the Tuscan column with its base and capital should be seven parts, taking the measurement from its thickness at the base. The height of the base should be half the column. Once this has been divided into two parts, one is to be for the plinth, the other should be divided up into thirds; two parts are to be given to the torus, the other will be for the collar. The protrusion of the base is to be made in the following way: first, draw a circle the thickness of the column at the bottom and put it in a square; around the square which you have drawn, draw a circle touching the four corners this will be its protrusion. Although all the other bases have square plinths, nevertheless the Tuscan one must be round in accordance with the text of Vitruvius. The height of the capital should be the same as the base. Divide it into three parts: one is to be for the abacus; the next should be divided into four parts, three are to be for the echinus, the last should be for the ring; the remaining third part is to be for the frieze the astragal with its necking should take up half of this. But with this divided into three, two are to be for the astragal and one should be given to the necking. The projection of the necking should be the same as its height, and even though it is joined to the capital it is, however, a member of the column. The column in the upper part should be diminished by a quarter part, and in this way the capital in the upper part will not be larger than the column at the bottom. The way to diminish the column is this: divide the trunk of the column into three parts, the third part at the bottom should be perpendicular, that is, plumb, and the remaining two-thirds are to be divided into as many equal parts as you wish. Then on the third part of the column draw a semi-circle, and from the lines that fall from the outside edges of the capital come in an eighth part - which will be in total the quarter part. Under the necking, here drop two plumb lines upon the semi-circle, and the part of the circle which remains from that line to the very edge of the column should be divided into as many equal parts as those of the two-thirds of the column. Having done this on both the left- and right-hand sides, draw the horizontal lines from the two sides of the semi-circle and place on each line its number, in sequence going down in the same way place the numbers in the same sequence on the lines that divide the column. It is certain that the first line from the circle will coincide with the line under the necking. Then bring up the second line of the circle on to the second line of the column, and then bring up the third line of the circle on to the third line of the column, and then bring up the fourth line of the circle on to the fourth line of the column. When you have done this, draw a line from the base of the semi-circle to the fourth line, then draw a line from the fourth line to the third line, and then draw a line from the third line to the second line, then draw a line from the second line to the first line. Having done this on both sides of the column, even though the said lines are in themselves straight, nevertheless they create a curved line the careful craftsman, with hand work, then smoothes out all the angles on it which occur where the lines join. Although this rule is made for the Tuscan column, which diminishes by a quarter part, it could nevertheless serve for every type of column; the greater the number of parts, both of the column and the semi-circle, the more correct the diminution will be.

  1. A. Plinth, called abacus or 'cimasa'
  2. B. Echinus, called 'vuovolo'
  3. C. Ring, called 'quadretto' or 'regolo'
  4. D. Hypotrachelium, called frieze
  5. E. Astragal, called 'tondino'
  6. F. 'Quadretto', called necking
  7. G. Top scape, that is the thickness of the column at the top

  8. H. Bottom scape, that is, the thickness of the column at the bottom
  9. I. 'Quadretto', called 'gradetto' some call it a 'listello', others collar
  10. K. Torus, called 'bastone', others call it by different names
  11. L. Plinth, called socle
  12. M. Protrusion of the base, called 'sporto'
  13. N. Bottom scape of the column, that is, its thickness at the bottom
  14. O. Top scape of the column, that is, its thickness at the top

Once the column with its base and capital is completed the architrave, frieze and cornice must be placed above it. The architrave is to be as tall as the capital. The frieze is to be the same height, and the fascia should be a sixth of this. Similarly the cornice and its members should be the same height and divided into four parts: one for the cymatium, two for the corona, and the remaining part should be given to the cyma below it. The projection of the whole is to be at least as much as its height, and in the bottom of the corona some channels should be cut, larger or smaller depending on the works, according to the judgement of the architect. But since this work is very solid and its members plain, the architect, in my opinion, could certainly take the licence of adding some members which appear suited to such a type - this ought to be when more delicate work is required, as can be seen in the detached part below here. In addidon I praise coronas that project more than their quadrate, provided that the stones can be supported by the buildings. Projections of this sort lend commodity and decorum: commodity, because if there are ambulatories above them, there will be more space, and also they will protect the works from the rain; decorum, because at the optimum distance the work will seem larger and where the stonework is reduced because of the delicacy, the greater projection will make it appear larger.

Although I said above that the Tuscan column with its base and capital should be seven parts, following the text of Vitruvius, and this proportion and shape is certainly good and accepted, nevertheless, because the first columns were six parts (taking this measurement from a human foot, which is a sixth of the body) and also because Doric columns should be seven parts (the ancients added an extra part to give them more height), it seems to me that on such authority and because this column is of a more robust style, it should be shorter than the Doric. Therefore, in my opinion, with its capital and base, it is to be six parts. All this should be as a general rule, observing, however, all the rest of the measurements which we mentioned on the above column and its ornaments. Since neither Vitruvius nor any other architect as far as I have seen has ever given a rule for stylobates (called pedestals) because in antiquity, as far as can be seen, these elements were built by architects according to the situations or the architects' needs (whether for raising columns or for raising steps up to porticoes or for any other elements which go with porticoes) I would judge that, as long as we are not constrained by necessity, each pedestal should be matched to the style of the column, using provable guidelines. It is quite clear that the pedestal should at least be quadrate, I mean the dado without the base and head. Since the Tuscan column, then, is the most solid of all the Orders, its pedestal should be a perfect square; its front is to be the same width as the plinth of the base of the column, and its height should be divided into four parts. One part is to be added for the plinth at the base and the same should be added for the head; these members are to be without any carving whatsoever. As the column is divided into six parts, so the pedestal will, in itself, be in six parts proportioned to the column.

Back to Book IV, chapter 7