Ornament: A Social History Since 1450

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Yale University Press, 1996 - Art - 232 pages
In a wide-ranging and richly illustrated book, the authors begin by tracing the ways ornament has been used over the last five centuries, the rules of decorum and etiquette associated with it, and the social, moral and spiritual values it has represented. They examine how architecture set the agenda for ornament in the Renaissance, and how printed images carried a common vocabulary of ornament throughout the Western world.
They survey the personal side of ornament, both in dress and in the domestic interior - a private expression of the self and a public statement of social and cultural status. They look at ornament in the public domain - from the lavish decoration and symbolism of a town pageant to the logos of today's corporate industry - and show how the ever-evolving role of ornament is to invent and embody the collective spirit of communities at work and at leisure. They conclude by discussing how the Western tradition of ornament has responded to and absorbed 'exotic' African and Asian motifs: Moresque motifs of the Near East and such familiar designs as the 'Paisley' and Willow" patterns.

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Ornament: a social history since 1450

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Ornament is often unfairly dismissed as being superfluous embellishment. Yet if we examine the message conveyed by the choice and use of ornament, we can derive a great deal of information about the ... Read full review


Ornament and the Printed Image
Ornament and Building
Ornament and the Human Figure
Ornament and the Domestic Interior
Ornament in Public and Popular Culture
the Uses and Meanings of Exoticism
Critical Bibliography
Illustration Acknowledgements 252

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About the author (1996)

Michael Snodin is head of the Designs Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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