Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
............................ Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary
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Miller House, Buffalo, NY

The Neapolis Archaeological Area, Syracuse, Sicily

Turkish acanthus, Perge, Turkey


A common plant of the Mediterranean, whose stylized leaves form the characteristic decoration on Corinthian and Composite capitals; also appears on acanthus capitals, friezes, panels, and modillions

Leaf borders and scroll motifs were used extensively in the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. Foremost of these was the acanthus motif. Some say the acanthus, one of the oldest flowers in the Mediterranean area, represents long life. Throughout most of its long history the leaf ornament generally known as acanthus is in fact an imaginary leaf adapted to many uses.

The symbolism and meaning associated with the Acanthus is that of enduring life, and the plant is traditionally displayed at funerary celebrations.

In Christianity the thorny leaves represent pain, sin and punishment. Acanthus symbolizes immortality in Mediterranean countries.

Scrolling acanthus plants: From the classical world, acanthus plants were depicted as scrolling

"In Greece 2 BC the acanthus was a clear reference to life emerging from a grave. It was not initially a reference to resurrection in Christian sense, but in a sense that life is cyclical." - Gus Tassara, "Plant Symbolism"

Drawings of 4 types of acanthus leaves: Roman / Greek / Romanesque / Renaissance

Note the two forms of acanthus leaves

Anthemion: Acanthus leaves added at the bases of the lotus and palmette elements produced designs now usually known as anthemion or honeysuckle.

Found in Classical Greek and Roman architecture and derivatives, including Beaux Arts Classicism, ..... Classical Revival, ..... Federal, ..... Georgian Revival, ..... Greek Revival, Neoclassicism, ..... Renaissance Revival, ..... Second Empire


Motif in furniture design, usually carved on knees of Chippendale cabriole legs and on pedestal bases of Empire tables.

Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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