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Passages of The Pittock: Arriving as One Ought, at The Front Door

In my last post, I left you at the back door of the Pittock Mansion, contemplating the Doric Order and its celebratory origins. I’d like to pick up there and point out a small detail that’s important to understanding multiple orders are present even in one door or façade. Of course, the pervading order of the entire house is Doric, but one can see here, on the wooden casing of the door, a rather slim, attenuated column superimposed on the frame.  Spare and absent of a triglyph overhead, this is a member of the Tuscan Order. We will revisit the Tuscan in our final post on the mansion, but for now, know that when a column is superimposed on a wall plane, it is called a pilaster. 

 Fig. 1 Pittock Mansion, Rear Entry with Tuscan Pilaster, Photo by Author

Fig. 1 Pittock Mansion, Rear Entry with Tuscan Pilaster, Photo by Author

I’d also like to correct one element of my last post before we move on: I promised all five orders were present here at the Pittock, but alas, such is not the case. The Composite, which is, as the name implies, an amalgam of all the others, is absent. Still, we do not need all the orders to understand they can be act simultaneously. Now, let’s visit the front door.

  Fig 2. Pittock Mansion, Front Door, Photo by Author

 Fig 2. Pittock Mansion, Front Door, Photo by Author

While I would not categorize the Pittock as a spectacular house, its front door, diminutive as it is, is a pretty spectacular effort. Its attitude is Mannerist, moving toward Baroque (ideas to explore later) – the convex shape of the turret it fronts meets inventive, concave pilasters, with more pilasters superimposed over those, surmounted by heaving scroll brackets in high relief, carrying a double stone pediment (the triangular roof-like piece on top). There is a major build up of energy in this rather finite amount of space, which suggests it as place of importance. The question is, what the heck is the presiding order here?

On inspection of the concave pilasters at far left and right, one will notice elements similar to the space between the three prongs we examined last time. Here, while not strictly a triglyph, the vertical groves are indicative of the Doric order. But that scrollwork represents something else all together. Here, one gets a small taste of the Ionic Order. Origins of the Ionic are much more difficult assert than those of the Doric, so I won’t try. I will suggest though, that whenever one encounters circular motifs folding in and around one another in Classical architecture, he is experiencing something of the Ionic Order. In our most basic understanding of the order, we know a column is crowned by a pair of scrolling elements called volutes. Here at the Pittock, we see heaving scrolls acting as brackets.

    Fig 3. Pittock Mansion, Scroll Brackets in Profile, Photo by Author

 

Fig 3. Pittock Mansion, Scroll Brackets in Profile, Photo by Author

With their scroll brackets for keystones, and wave motifs overhead, windows on the main level of the front façade add to the Ionic tone. Still, the Doric is ever-present, as evidenced by these triglyph brackets beneath the sills.

 Fig. 4 Pittock Mansion, Front Window Surround with Ionic Motifs, Photo by Author

Fig. 4 Pittock Mansion, Front Window Surround with Ionic Motifs, Photo by Author

 Fig. 5 Pittock Mansion, Doric Bracket Below Sill, Photo by Author

Fig. 5 Pittock Mansion, Doric Bracket Below Sill, Photo by Author

Next time, we will actually pass through the front doorway, where we will see more interplay between the Doric and Ionic, and encounter a bit of the Corinthian as well.

 

Until Then,

Peter