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  • The Tuscan/Rustic Order: A Study in the Metaphorical Language of ArchitectureAuthor(s): James S. AckermanSource: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 1983), pp.15-34Published by: Society of Architectural HistoriansStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/989854Accessed: 28/06/2009 15:57

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  • The Tuscan/Rustic Order: A Study in the Metaphorical Language of Architecture

    J A M E S S. A C K E R M A N Harvard University

    Sebastiano Serlio begins his account of the orders with a descrip- tion of the Tuscan order that associates it with the practice of rustication, implying that the two should be joined because both originated in Tuscany. In the process of investigating how this marriage came about and what it means, this essay traces the Renaissance interpretations of the Tuscan order from Vitruvius and Alberti through Scamozzi and then undertakes to discover what Renaissance theorists knew about the ancient use, first of the Tuscan order, and then of Rustication. Returning to Serlio, it suggests that his association of the two traditions was adapted from the practice of Giulio Romano, and reflects an interest in the dialectic between nature and culture characteristic of the second, post-classical generation of I 6th-century designers.

    Now, IN ORDER better to proceed in a logical fashion, I shall give precedence to the solidest and least ornate order, namely the Tuscan, which is the most rustic and the strongest and has less thinness and gracefulness.

    The ancients dedicated buildings to the Gods in consideration of their nature, whether it be robust or delicate... [here Serlio follows Vitruvius' association of the three canonical orders to the range of godly attributes from masculine/warlike to virginal]. But in these modem times it seems to me proper to proceed otherwise, though not deviating from the An- cients-I mean to say, according to our Christian customs, and I should dedicate as far as possible sacred edifices according to their species to God and to His saints and profane edifices, whether public or private, to men according to their rank and profession.

    They say, then, that the Tuscan manner (opera), as I see it, is suitable to fortified places, such as city gates, fortresses, castles, treasuries or where ammunition and artillery is kept, prisons, seaports, and other similar structures used in war. It is indeed true that the rustic manner, namely of varied bonding and stone roughly hewn (abozzata)-and at times interspersed with blocks more delicately worked because of the pleasure sculptors found in it-was sometimes joined by the Ancients to the Doric manner and at times even to Ionic and Corinthian. Nonethe- less, because the Tuscan manner is truly the roughest and least ornate of all, it seems to me that the rustic is best suited to it and more in con- formity to the Tuscan than to any other. This one can readily see to have been observed by the Tuscans both in their major and principal city, which is Florence, and in their villas, in as many beautiful and rich edifices, made indeed of rustic work, as may be found in all the rest of Christendom-with a mixture, however, of that rusticity with delicacy, which is pleasing to architects. And it is for this reason that I say that

    such work is more suited to the Tuscan than to the other types. There- fore, assembling some examples from the antique and some others of our own, I shall show in diverse modes of such works how city gates may be made, fortresses and also public and private places, facades, Loggias, Porticoes, Windows, Niches, Bridges, Aqueducts and other various or- naments that may be useful to the good architect.1

    The key points in this passage from Sebastiano Serlio's Fourth Book of Architecture of 1537 are:

    I) He is beginning with the Tuscan order because it is the most rustic and the strongest.

    z) The ancients matched the orders expressively to the per- sonality and physique of their gods. In modem times, we should accordingly adapt them, in religious architecture, to our one God and to the saints, and, in domestic architecture, to the status and profession of the patron.

    3) Replacing the ordine toscano with opera toscana, he now stealthily switches from the columnar order to rustication and associates it with military and protective functions. This extraor- dinary linkage he justifies on two unrelated grounds. The first is iconographic and etymological: the most rustic order is suited to the rusticated treatment of masonry walls and apertures. The second is historical and ethnographic: both are identified with Etruria/Tuscany.

    i. Sebastiano Serlio, Regole generali di architettura di Sebastiano Ser- lio Bolognese sopra le cinque maniere degli edifici, cioe, Thoscano, Dorico, Ionico, Corinthio, e Composito, con gli esempi dell'antiquita, che con la maggior parte concordano con la dottrina di Vitruvio, Venice, I537: published as Book Four of the Venice I584 edition of Tutte le opere d'architettura, fol. iz6. Serlio's theoretical restriction of rustica- tion to fortified structures does not conform with his citation of private palaces and villas, but in practice, defensive overtones did play a part in determining the rustic style of early domestic architecture, especially in Tuscany.

    Serlio's radical association of rustication with the Tuscan order was common usage a generation later; Giorgio Vasari, writing of Cronaca's work on the Strozzi Palace in Florence, says: "condusse il guscio di fuori . . . il quale guscio e d'ordine rustico e graduato; percioche la parte de'bozzi dal primo finestrato in giu insieme con le porte, e rustica grande- mente; e la parte ch'e dal primo finestrato al secondo, e meno rustica assai ... Fecevi dunque il Cronaca, oltra la bellezza di fuori con ordine toscano, in cima una cornice corintia molto magnifica." The passage was pointed out to me by Nicholas Adams.


  • I6 JSAH, XLII:1, MARCH 1983


    Heights of components of the Tuscan order

    (Figures represent fractions of the module of one-column width at its base) Column

    (incl. base and capital)

    base plinth or socle

    base: torus collar

    Capital abacus echinus ring frieze astragal necking

    Architrave fascia frieze

    Vitruvius Serlio

    7 I/2



    width of cap. at neck

    cavetto ovolo corona


    6 I/2


    I/4 i/6 1/12 I/I2


    i/6 I/8

    I/24 I/6 i/i8

    1/36 1/2




    I/4 i/8

    Barbaro Palladio Vignola

    7 I/z

    i/4 i/4


    i/6 i/6

    7 I/z

    I/4 I/4 3/I6 i/i6 I/2

    I/6 i/6

    1/42 I/7 1/21

    I/40 7/I2 7/12




    i/6 I/6

    Like every other Renaissance writer and practitioner of archi- tecture, Serlio based his discussion of the ancient orders on Vi- truvius' treatise of the ist century B.C. Vitruvius did not discuss the Tuscan order in his chapters on the three canonical orders of antiquity (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian), but peripherally, in his description of the Etruscan temple in Book Iv,vii.2 Vitruvius suggested no connection between the order and rustication, since rustication was not employed until after his death. Though Vitruvius incorporated many elements indigenous to the Italian peninsula into his summation of Hellenistic architectural prac-

    z. Vitruvius, De architectura, IV, vii, 2-3: "Eaeque sint ima crassitu- dine altitudinis parte VII; altitudo tertia parte latitudinis templi; sum- maque columna quarta parte crassitudinis imae contrahatur. Spirae earum altae dimidia parte crassitudinis fiant. Habeant spirae earum plinthum ad circinum, altam suae crassitudinis dimidia parte, torum insuper cum apophysi crassum quantum plinthus. Capituli altitudo di- midia crassitudinis. Abaci latitudo quanta ima crassitiudo columnae. Capitulique crassitudo dividatur in partes tres, e quibus una plintho, quae est in abaco, detur, altera echino, tertia hypotrachelio cum apophysi. Supra columnas trabes compactiles ponantur ut ear habeant crassitu- dinem, quanta summa columnae erit...."

    tice, he stopped short of appropriating the Etruscan vocabulary into the canon, probably because the orders were the most in- violable and semantically loaded aspect of the entire architec- tural repertory.

    The Vitruvian description of the Tuscan order is much less specific than that of the canonical orders. It gives only