Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Vitruvian scroll
Also called Vitruvian wave, wave scroll, running dog

A classical frieze ornament, made up of a series of wavelike scrolls

Scroll - A classical frieze ornament having a spiral form resembling a loosely rolled parchment

Wave scroll
- A series of scrolls forming a stylized wave pattern

A Vitruvian wave is an example of a running ornament or running mold

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was an architect of the age of Augustus whose writings had great influence in the Renaissance. See
Vitruvius Pollio on Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Orders

Found in friezes of the
Composite order, and later in classical Greek and Roman architecture and derivatives, including Beaux Arts Classicism, Classical Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Greek Revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance Revival, Second Empire

Spiral, Meander, Key Pattern and the Maze

The spiral is a universal element in all decoration, in primitive as well as in the most sophisticated art. The running spiral (also known as running dog, wave scroll or Vitruvian scroll) and the meander (also known as Greek fret, Greek key, labyrinth, maze, key pattern) are curved and angular variations of the same motif.

Other figures, for example the four-strand spiral and the swastika, are similarly related.

Spiral and meander motifs, and their intermediate forms, have a long history in the Mediterranean. They occur in the earliest farming communities in Anatolia in the sixth millennium BC and as major motifs in pottery decoration throughout Neolithic Europe. In the third millennium BC spirals decorated stone monuments in western Europe, in the Iberian peninsula and on Malta. Later, during the second millennium BC, spirals and
scrolls were the basic form from which the Minoan potters created a new art in the Mediterranean. Designs based on spirals scrolls, concentric circles and meandering bands are typical of the art of the Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland in the middle of the second millennium BC. Meanders and key patterns are today closely associated with Greek art and architecture. In the formalized Orders of architecture the meander motif was assigned to flat vertical surfaces. In the eighteenth-century European revival of interest in classical Greece as a source of ornament, it was the in the meander and key patterns which, above all others, signified Greek style and taste.

It is generally accepted that the name of the motif refers to the winding river Meander in Anatolia, Turkey. This appears to be an ancient connection, since coins of the late fourth century BC from the towns on this river feature the meander motif. The connection with water perhaps persists in Roman times, when the motif is frequently used on mosaic floors in bath houses.With few exceptions, these motifs carry no symbolic messages in Greek andRoman art.

In Greek vase painting of the fifth century BC, however, the meander became associated with a popular story drawn from the legends concerning King Minos of Crete, the story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur and finding his way in and out of the labyrinth. In these representations Theseus and the Minotaur - part bull, part man - are shown as realistic figures, while the Labyrinth is often indicated by a simple meander border, attached to a door post or pillar representing the entrance. In these scenes, therefore, the meander border became the conventional sign or ideogram for the Labyrinth. When the cities of Crete began to issue coins, the link between this story and the island of Crete was so strong that the motifs chosen to represent Knossos, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth were taken from its legendary history relating to a period some thousand years earlier. At first the Labyrinth took the form of a meander; later, in the fourth century BC, the form of the Labyrinth was that of a 'true' maze, a design which can be traced back at least to the second millennium BC in the Mediterranean. Apparently in an unbroken tradition, the true maze occurs in the east from the Caucasus to Java, as it does in Europe, to the present day.

- British Museum Pattern Books: Roman Designs, by Eva Wilson, 1999, p. 12.


Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:


Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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