Capital (or Cap)
Capital (Or Cap), the head of a column, pilaster, etc. In classical architecture, the orders have each their respective capitals, which differ considerably from .one another, but their characteristics are easily distinguished; there are, however, considerable differences to be found in a few of the ancient examples, as in the Corinthian orders of the temple of Vesta at Tivoli, and of the Choragic monument of Lysicrates at Athens; there are also a few capitals totally unlike those of any of the five orders, as in the Temple of the Winds, at Athens. In Norman and Gothic architecture they are endlessly diversified.
A very common form for plain Norman capitals, especially on small shafts, is one called the cushion capital, resembling a bowl with the sides truncated, so as to reduce the upper part to a square; there is also another form which is extremely frequent, very much like this. but with the under part of the bowl cut into round mouldings which stop upon the top of the necking; these round mouldings are sometimes ornamented, but are often plain; this kind of capital continued in use till quite the end of the period. At a later period the capitals are ornamented with conventional foliage, which gradually approaches to the succeeding style. In the early part of the period also they were generally of rather short proportions, but they afterwards became frequently more elongated, and the foliage and other decorations were made of a much lighter character, approximating to the Early English.
Early English capitals are not so much diversified as Norman, although there are many varieties; they are very frequently entirely devoid of carving, and consist of suites of plain mouldings, generally not very numerous, which are deeply undercut so as to produce fine bold shadows, and there is usually a considerable plain space, or bell, between the upper mouldings and the necking; occasionally a series of the is placed upon the bell of the capital, and, for the most part, but few, if any, mouldings, beyond the abacus and necking, are used with it; the leaves have generally stiff stems; but almost always stand out very boldly, so as to produce a striking and beautiful effect, and they are generally well worked, and often so much undercut that the stalks and more prominent parts are entirely detached. The character of the foliage varies, but by far the most common, and that which belongs peculiarly to this style, consists of a trefoil, the two lower lobes of which (and sometimes all three) are worked with a high prominence or swelling in the centre, which casts a considerable shadow; the middle lobe is frequently much larger than the others, with the main fibre deeply channelled in it. Occasionally animals are mixed with the foliage, but they are usually a sign that the work is late. Some of the richest specimens of thirteenth century foliage are to be found in the presbytery of Lincoln Cathedral.
In the Decorated style, the capitals very often consist of plain mouldings either with or without ball-flowers or other flowers worked upon the bell, though they are frequently carved with very rich and beautiful foliage; the mouldings usually consist of rounds, ogees, and hollows, and are not so deeply ,undercut as in the Early English style; the foliage is very different from Early English work, and of a much broader character, many of the leaves being representations of those of particular plants and trees, as the oak, ivy, white-thorn, vine, etc., which are often worked so truly to nature as to lead to the supposition that the carver used real leaves for his pattern; they are also in general extremely well arranged, and without the stiffness to be found in the Early English foliage.
Perpendicular capitals are usually plain, though in large and ornamented buildings they are not unfrequently enriched with foliage, especially early in the style, when. the shafts are circular; it is very common for the neck in gong, or for the necking, the bell, and the first moulding above it, to follow the same form, the upper mouldings being changed into an octagon; ogees, beads, and hollows are the prevailing mouldings; much of the foliage bears considerable resemblance to the Decorated, but it is stiffer and not so Well combined, and the leaves in general are of less natural forms and frequently square; towards the latter part of the style there is often a main stalk continued uninterruptedly in a waved line, with the leaves arranged alternately on opposite sides. SEE ABACUS.