Assemblage of horizontal moldings and bands supported by the columns of Classical buildings. The entablature is usually divided into three main sections: the lowest band, or architrave, which originally took the form of a beam running from support to support; the central band, or frieze, consisting of an unmolded strip with or without ornament; and the top band, or cornice, constructed from a series of moldings that project from the edge of the frieze. Most entablatures correspond to or are derived from the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian order.
Learn more about entablature with a free trial on Britannica.com.
An entablature (Latin, and tabula, a tablet) refers to the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave—the supporting member carried from column to column, pier or wall immediately above; the frieze—an unmolded strip that may or may not be ornamented; and the cornice, the projecting member below the pediment.
The structure of the entablature varies with the three classical orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. In each, the proportions of the subdivisions (architrave, frieze, cornice) are defined by the proportions of the column in the order. In Roman and Renaissance interpretations, it is usually around a fourth of the height of the column. Variants of entablature that do not fit these models are usually derived from them.
The frieze is dominated by the triglyphs, vertically channelled tablets, separated by metopes, which may or may not be decorated. The triglyphs sit on top of the taenia, a flat, thin, horizontal protrusion, and are finished at the bottom by decoration (often ornate) of drops, called guttae, which belong to the top of the architrave. The top of the triglyphs meet the protrusion of the cornice from the entablature. The underside of this protrusion is decorated with mutules, tablets that are typically finished with guttae.
The Corinthian order adds a far more ornate frieze, divided, from bottom to top, into the cyma reversa, the dentils, the ovulo, the modillions, the fascia, and the cyma recta. The modillions are ornate brackets, similar in use to dentils, but often in the shape of acanthus leaves.
The frieze is sometimes omitted - for example, on the portico of the caryatides of the Erechtheum - and probably did not exist as a structure in the temple of Diana at Ephesus. Neither is it found in the Lycian tombs, which are reproductions in the rock of timber structures based on early lonian work. The entablature is essentially an evolution of the primitive lintel, which spans two posts, supporting the ends of the roof rafters.
The entablature together with the system of classical columns is rarely found outside of classical architecture. It is often used to complete the upper portion of a wall where columns are not present, and in the case of pilasters (flattened columns or projecting from a wall) or detached or engaged columns it is sometimes profiled round them. The use of the entablature irrespective of columns appeared after the Renaissance.