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Originality and Jones' The Grammar of Ornament of 1856
Faculty Publications
  • John K. Jespersen, Rhode Island College
Document Type
Department (Manual Entry)
James P. Adams Library
Date of Original Version

Two years ago (2006) was the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones (1809�1874). This bible of ornament remains his best-known contribution to visual culture. This article looks at how the Grammar came about and also at its design intentions. The folio itself is really more famous for what it is than what it really is about. Jones' intention for ornamental designs of carpets, ceilings, wall elevations and fabrics was to create a field which was frequently conditioned by borders, panels or dados, cornices and covings.The field's ornaments consist of secondary motifs�dots, fragments, elements, etc.�but not primary or iconic, static, emblematic figures. With Jones, the field is a coloured field, and the secondary nature of the distributed ornaments aids in the creation of a coloured �bloom'. The visual field is driven by Jones' new (and very old) aesthetic of repose. Repose conditions the field as an aesthetic with physiological, intellectual and spiritual results. It unifies the visual experience. The Grammar is indeed a grammar of ornament, making possible the creation of new and significant ornaments through the application of its 37 Propositions. The design theory of the Grammar is modern, scientific and devoid of deliberate historicism, operating by principles to create an ornament for every kind of decoration.

Citation Information
John K. Jespersen. "Originality and Jones' The Grammar of Ornament of 1856" (2008)
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