Technique #4

The Acanthus leaf, lessons from M.Page

We talked in a previous post of the extensive use western art made of the Acanthus outline. As an art restorer, it is one useful thing to know how to draw or sculpt, as this motif will eventually be present on the pieces you’re working on.

Book of Hours. Use of Rome . Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Acanthus from BL Eg 747, f. 14v, Bartholomaei Mini de Senis; Platearius; Nicolaus of Salerno. The British Library.

Bureau plat by Andre-Charles Boulle, boulle and marquetry with ormolu mounts, French, 1690 remounted in the18th c., © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017

In 2D pieces, leaves could have faded or been erased. In 3D pieces, like in the moldings on the desk above, this complex and most often intricate design often leads to breakages on the most prominent features and the broken pieces lost in time.

Because let’s face it : artists often went a little overboard with it and the flourishes it allows.

You crazy, genius, you.

Fortunately, lots of books and courses exist explaining how to master the fine art of Acanthus design. One book in particular clerverly deconstructs and systematizes the building process of creating an eye-pleasing acanthus.

Sources in our line of work is timeless, references can come from any period of time and I am now refering to a XIXth century work.

In this 1886 book, James Page, cunning ornamental design teacher at an english school, presents the ultimate «Guide for drawing the acanthus, and every description of ornamental foliage ».

I know, right ?

Despite its best intentions, the book’s illustrations sometimes lack a few steps. Think about those « how to draw » books where in 4 steps the student is supposed to go from vaguely round shapes to picture perfect smiling characters. Didn’t manage to get there while using them ? Well, no beginners EVER did.

So, as a new year gift to you all, lovely readers, I’ve decided to partner up with the guys at Skully’s Corner to offer you our twist on the case. In this series of 4 posts, we’ll try and give you the few steps we thought were missing.

Disclaimer : despite our care to respect M.Page’s guidelines, everything you read from now on in this series is our interpretation of it and we strongly urge you to check his work for yourself.

It should help you achieve the intricate design of your choice, acanthus-wise. Once a you’ve mastered the basic steps guiding you to a solid ground, you’re good to go : no matter how complex you want the design to be, you know how to break it down in small steps.

Thank you so much M.Page.

Happy new year, everyone !