Serpentine shape

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Serpentine lines in a plate from The Analysis of Beauty.

"Serpentine Shape" is a description pertaining to the curved shape of an object or design. The origin of the phrase is "serpentine", an adjective applying to the shape of a snake. A serpentine is a precious stone used throughout history for a variety of purposes such as seals, amulets, personal adornment and funerary equipment.[citation needed]


Britannica Serpentine

The serpentine gemometrical pattern is a cubic curve as described by Isaac Newton, given by the cartesian equation y(a2 + x2) = abx. The origin is a point of inflection, the axis of x being an asymptote and the curve lies between the parallel lines 2y = ±b. [1][2]


Italian followers of the Witchcraft tradition during the Roman period believed that small pieces of serpentine stone could protect people from venomous creatures such as snakes or spiders, as the dark green and streaked with white color resembles the appearance of the skin of snakes. Therefore, serpentine was believed to be a tool to draw out the toxins whenever a person was bitten by a venomous creature.[3]

In Architecture[edit]

Serpentine walls at the University of Virginia
San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains) fascade in Rome, Italy

The serpentine shape is observed in many architectural settings.

Serpentine walls extend down the length of the main lawn at the University of Virginia and flank both sides of the rotunda. Each is an example of a crinkle crankle wall, and they are one of the many structures Thomas Jefferson created that combine aesthetics with utility. The sinusoidal path of the wall provides strength against toppling over, allowing the wall to be only a single brick thick.

  • San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome, Italy (The Church of Saint Charles at the Four Fountains)

The monastic buildings and the cloister were completed first, after which construction of the church took place during the period of 1638-1641CE and in 1646CE it was dedicated to Charles Borromeo. The serpentine facade was constructed towards the end of Borromini's life and the upper part was not completed until after the death of the architect. The concave-convex facade of the church undulates in a non-classic way. Tall corinthian columns stand on plinths and support the main entablatures; these define the main framework of two stories and the tripartite bay division. Between the columns, smaller columns with their entablatures weave behind the main columns and in turn they frame many architectural features of the church. Above the main entrance, mythical figures frame the central figure of Charles Borromeo by Antonio Raggi and to either side are statues of John of Matha and Felix of Valois, the founders of the Trinitarian Order.

  • The London parks Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens contain 'The Serpentine', a lake that spans both parks. It received the name from its snake-like, curving shape. A central bridge divides the lake into two parts, and defines the boundaries between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.[4]
  • In the furniture industry, the serpentine shape has been observed in Louis XV commodes, and also in 18th-century CE English furniture.[5]

In Topography and Geoecology[edit]

Among Castle Howard's gardens is a large, formal path behind the building, where a serpentine path is situated on a ridge. It opens out from the formal garden and merges back into the park. When buildings and site elements are set into the landscape, a serpentine path connecting every location is placed in-between features. The path merges into the landscape due to the natural shape, which allows convenient garden-path integration.

  • The serpentine rill, Rousham House

Rousham House is a country house at Rousham in Oxfordshire, England. It was built circa 1635CE and remodeled by William Kent in the 18th century CE in the Gothic style. The paths lead through woods where the water from the Cherwell is utilised, by using small rills lead to larger ponds and formal pools. It is set with the intent that the rill is a serpentine shape, used for easier water flow around the slopes.

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ *O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Serpentine", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  3. ^ M. Owen Lee, Virgil as Orpheus: A Study of the Georgics. (Albany:State University of New York Press,1996), 9
  4. ^ "Hyde Park History & Architecture". The Royal Parks. 2007. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  5. ^ Holly, "Things that inspire", August 12, 2007,

External Links[edit]