Closeup of dentils, above a Corinthian-order capital, Town Hall, Westport, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Dentils in context

In classical architecture a dentil (from Lat. dens, a tooth) is a small block used as a repeating ornament in the bedmould of a cornice.

The Roman architect Vitruvius (iv. 2) states that the dentil represents the end of a rafter (asser); and since it occurs in its most pronounced form in the Ionic temples of Asia Minor, the Lycian tombs and the porticoes and tombs of Persia, where it represents distinctly the reproduction in stone of timber construction, there is but little doubt as to its origin. The earliest example is that found on the tomb of Darius, c. 500 BC, cut in the rock, in which the portico of his palace is reproduced. Its first employment in Athens is in the cornice of the caryatid portico or tribune of the Erechtheum (480 BC). When subsequently introduced into the bed-mould of the cornice of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates it is much smaller in its dimensions. In the later temples of Ionia, as in the temple of Priene, the larger scale of the dentil is still retained.

The dentil was the chief decorative feature employed in the bedmould by the Romans and in the Italian Renaissance. As a general rule the projection of the dentil is equal to its width, and the intervals between to half the width. In some cases the projecting band has never had the sinkings cut into it to divide up the dentils, as in the Pantheon at Rome, and it is then called a dentil-band. In the porch of the Studion cathedral at Constantinople, the dentil and the interval between are equal in width, and the interval is splayed back from top to bottom; this is the form it takes in what is known as the Venetian dentil, which was copied from the Byzantine dentil in Santa Sophia, Constantinople. There, however, it no longer formed part of a bed-mould: its use at Santa Sophia was to decorate the projecting moulding enclosing the encrusted marbles, and the dentils were cut alternately on both sides of the moulding. The Venetian dentil was also introduced as a label round arches and as a string course.


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  • Dentil — Den til, n. [LL. dentillus, for L. denticulus. Cf. {Dentelli}, {Denticle}, {Dentile}.] (Arch.) A small square block or projection in cornices, a number of which are ranged in an ornamental band; used particularly in the Ionic, Corinthian, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dentil — [ dɛntɪl] noun Architecture one of a series of small tooth like rectangular blocks used as a decoration under the moulding of a cornice. Origin C16: from Ital. dentello or obs. Fr. dentille, dimin. of dent tooth …   English new terms dictionary

  • dentil — [den′til] n. [MFr dentille, dim. of dent < L dens, TOOTH] Archit. any of a series of small rectangular blocks projecting like teeth, as from under a cornice …   English World dictionary

  • dentil — noun Etymology: obsolete French dentille, from Middle French, diminutive of dent Date: 1663 one of a series of small projecting rectangular blocks forming a molding especially under a cornice • dentiled adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dentil — dentiled, adj. /den tl, til/, n. Archit. any of a series of closely spaced, small, rectangular blocks, used esp. in classical architecture beneath the coronas of Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite cornices. [1655 65; < F dentille (obs.), fem. dim.… …   Universalium

  • dentil — noun One of a series of small rectangular blocks projecting like teeth from a molding or beneath a cornice …   Wiktionary

  • dentil — n. small rectangular block projecting like teeth from a molding or underneath an edge …   English contemporary dictionary

  • DENTIL — Dentilius …   Abbreviations in Latin Inscriptions

  • dentil — den·til …   English syllables

  • dentil — den•til [[t]ˈdɛn tl, tɪl[/t]] n. archit. one of a series of closely spaced small rectangular blocks, used esp. in classical architecture beneath the corona of a cornice • Etymology: 1655–65; < F dentille (obs.), fem. dim. of dent tooth …   From formal English to slang

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