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A pediment is an element in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture, and derivatives therefrom, consisting of a gable, originally of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The tympanum, or triangular area within the pediment, was often decorated with relief sculpture depicting scenes from Greek and Roman mythology or allegorical figures.
The pediment is found in classical Greek temples, renaissance, and neoclassical architecture. A prominent example is the Parthenon, where it contains a tympanum decorated with figures in relief sculpture. This architectural element was developed in the architecture of ancient Greece. In Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, and later architectural revivals, the pediment was used as a non-structural element over windows, doors and aedicules.
A variant is the "segmental" or "arch" pediment, where the normal angular slopes of the cornice are replaced by one in the form of a segment of a circle, in the manner of a depressed arch. Both traditional and segmental pediments have "broken" and "open" forms. In the broken pediment the raking cornice is left open at the apex.
The open pediment is open along the base – often used in Georgian architecture. A further variant is the "Swan-necked" pediment, where the raking cornice is in the form of two S-shaped brackets. The decorations in the tympanum frequently extend through these openings, in the form of "Alto-relievo" sculpture, "tondo" paintings, mirrors or windows. These forms were adopted in Mannerist architecture, and applied to furniture designed by Thomas Chippendale.
The terms "open pediment" and "broken pediment" are often used interchangeably.
Significant pediments in the United States
- Apotheosis of Democracy at the United States Capitol, Washington D.C.
- United States Supreme Court building, Washington D.C.
- National Archives Building, Washington D.C.
- Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin
- Wayne County Building, Detroit, Michigan
- Allen County Courthouse, Fort Wayne, Indiana
- New York Stock Exchange Building, New York City
- San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco, California
- Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City, Missouri
- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio
- Harris, Cyril M., ed. Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, Dover Publications, New York, c. 1977, 1983 edition p. 386
- Dictionary of Ornament by Philippa Lewis & Gillian Darley (1986) NY: Pantheon
Media related to pediments at Wikimedia Commons
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "pediment". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press