The Repton Gazette and Brown Advisor

300 Frequently Asked Questions about Capability Brown, and a further 200 about Humphry Repton

216: Why the Tuscan order?

This issue of the Ionic order (notes 162 and 222) clings to me like goose-grass on the jerseys of children. In all probability it is as foolish, but Mrs S of London has inquired about the Tuscan columns used in William Pitt’s farms at Burton Pynsent. The gardener and home-builder, Capability Brown, who does not seem to have used the Ionic order in his buildings, may have known these, and certainly knew the Tuscan temples (with their Tuscan columns) at Wotton. I would go so far as to say that he was comfortable with Tuscans, however at the point of reaching this conclusion, my lucubrations were brought prematurely to a close with a whoop from Captain Ken, who had just made a triple twenty on the dart-board at my elbow.

Buoyed by his triumph, he suggested, when I unfolded to him what had been on my mind, that just as architects of the Italian Renaissance had adopted the Tuscan as a native Etruscan form and hence their own, so might the 18th century have brought it to England for its primitive honesty – a thing that Brown is like to have fostered within himself. Perhaps, Mrs S, we should leave the Captain, in the moment of his triumph, with that likely answer.


215: Who were the surveyors?


219: Did Thomas Whately know Capability Brown?

1 Comment

  1. Dear Sir,
    It may also be worth adding that the Tuscan, due to its rugged appearance and strength, was viewed as a male order. Palladio, for example, viewed the Tuscan as suitable for prisons and fortifications, and if used correctly in its proper hierarchical order should be employed only on the ground floor of the building. In England this is certainly true at Chiswick House where a ring of eight Tuscan columns were situated in the Lower Tribunal and the Lower Link building. As such it was a suitable order for use in agricultural buildings. In contrast, the more maidenly orders, such as the Corinthian, were reserved for high statues rooms and the Tuscan (a Roman order) should always be placed below the more stately orders in architectural compositions.

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By John Phibbs