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What Is a Tuscan Column?

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Tuscan Column

Tuscan Column

Photo © morrismedia / iStockPhoto
Definition:

Tuscan was a simple architectural form practiced in ancient Italy. A Tuscan column is plain, without carvings and ornaments.

Features of a Tuscan Column:

  • Shaft sets on a simple base
  • Shaft is usually plain, not fluted (grooved)
  • Shaft is slender, with proportions similar to a Greek Ionic column
  • Smooth, round capitals (tops)
  • No carvings or other ornaments
Tuscan and Doric Columns Compared:
A Tuscan column resembles a Doric column from ancient Greece. Both column styles are simple, without carvings or ornaments. However, a Tuscan column is more slender than a Doric column. Also, the shaft of a Tuscan column is usually smooth, while a Doric column usually has flutes (grooves).

Origins of the Tuscan Order:
Historians debate when the Tuscan Order emerged. Some say that Tuscan was a primitive style that came before the famous Greek Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. But other historians say that the Classical Greek Orders came first, and that Italian builders adapted Greek ideas to develop a Roman Doric style that evolved into the Tuscan Order.

Buildings With Tuscan Columns:

Considered strong and masculine, Tuscan columns were often used for utilitarian and military buildings. In his Treatise on Architecture, the Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475–1554) called the Tuscan order "suitable to fortified places, such as city gates, fortresses, castles, treasuries, or where artillery and ammunition are kept, prisons, seaports and other similar structures used in war."

Centuries later, builders in the United States adopted the uncomplicated Tuscan form for vernacular Georgian and Greek Revival homes with simple, easy-to-construct columns. Examples:

Also Known As: Tuscany, Roman Doric
Common Misspellings: Tusscan, Tuskin, Tuskan

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