Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gibbs surrounds

click photo to enlarge
It is said that examples of rusticated walls - where the joints between stone blocks are cut back and emphasised - can be found in Roman architecture. If that is the case then they aren't too common. However, in Renaissance architecture rustication of this sort, rustication applied to columns, window surrounds, quoins etc are commonplace. The word "rustication" derives from the same root as "rustic" and means rough and rural, or unsophisticated. In Italian and European Renaissance architecture in general, as well as the nineteenth and twentieth century revivals of the style, it is frequently seen applied to the ground floor of a building with the first floor (piano nobile) and above invariably faced with smoother ashlar.

Renaissance architects delighted in applying new variations of rustication to buildings. English Georgian architects used it prolifically too. Today's photograph shows a doorway and some windows of 67 High Street St Martin's in Stamford, Lincolnshire, one of a pair of very similar houses dating from around 1740. Here the rustication is in block form and applied to the architraves on either side of the door and windows and to the key-stoned lintels. In England this treatment is often termed a "Gibbs surround" after the architect, James Gibbs (1682-1754), who popularised the style here.

We arrived in Stamford a little earlier in the day than is usually the case, and the lower sun combined with a clear, blue sky showed the crisp shadows created by the rustication off to great effect. As I framed my shot I reflected that  decorative elements raised above the mass of the smooth stonework of the wall, that were designed to work well with sharp Mediterranean light, worked equally well in the light of a cold, clear English spring.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm (48mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On