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The Problem of Ornament in Early Modern Architecture

Aristova, Maria-Anna (2018) The Problem of Ornament in Early Modern Architecture. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis focuses on two case studies to stake a challenge to the subordinate status of decoration in architectural scholarship. The four architectural works studied are the Painted Stair and Great Chamber at Knole, and the Lay Brothers’ Choir and Great Cloister at the Certosa di San Martino. Long cast as excessive or inessential, architectural decoration has recently begun to be reassessed. The present study aligns with this emerging field and endeavours to open up new avenues through a multidisciplinary study of the functioning of ornament in architecture. By focusing on Baroque Naples and Jacobean England – both treated as marginal in traditional art-historical scholarship – I question the scholarly categories that cast these field as insurmountably separate and draw out the insights of their productive tension. The thesis offers extended analyses of four artworks, which directly question metanarratives imposed by the works’ place within the scholarly landscape: device, didacticism and moral naivety; the iconographical ‘meaning’ of nature; celebratory, functional state rooms; the symbolic signification of a cloister. Close visual analysis of artworks is coupled with readings of poetry and literature, political and gender studies, anthropology, devotional writings, guidebooks as well as recent critical theory. I examine two cases studies of illusionistic painted decoration, demonstrating how the painted surface can question, extend and problematize architecture. Carved surfaces, sculpture and relief studied in the complementary chapters provide a counterpoint, as the arresting and unsettling effects of sculptural presence are explored. Ultimately, I demonstrate that decoration is riven with tensions, paradoxes, stoppages and evasions that play a fundamental part of architecture.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History of Art (York)
Depositing User: Maria-Anna Aristova
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 13:23
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 13:23
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23979

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