All About Egg-and-Dart Classical Ornamentation

A Classical Pattern for Crown Molding

Combination Illustration of egg-and-dart patterns on an Ionic column (top) and a piece of ancient cornice (bottom)
Combination Illustration of egg-and-dart patterns on an Ionic column (top) and a piece of ancient cornice (bottom). Photo 129741584 (top) by Javier Larrea/age fotostock/Getty Images (cropped) and photo 577691611 (bottom) by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images (cropped). Combined by Jackie Craven.

Egg-and-dart is a repetitive design that today is most often found on molding (e.g., crown moulding) or trim. The pattern is characterized by a repetition of oval shapes, like an egg split lengthwise, with various non-curved patterns, like "darts," repeated between the egg pattern. In three-dimensional sculpting in wood or stone the pattern is in bas-relief, but the pattern can also be found in two-dimensional painting and stencil.

The curved and non-curved pattern has been pleasing to the eye for centuries. It is often found in ancient Greek and Roman architecture and, so, is considered a Classical design element.

Definition of Egg and Dart Motif

" egg and dart molding a decorative molding in classical cornices that resembles alternating egg-shaped ovals with downward-pointing darts." — John Milnes Baker, AIA

How Is This Design Used Today?

Because its origins are from ancient Greece and Rome, the egg and dart motif is most often found in Neoclassical architecture, both public and residential, on interiors and exteriors. The Classical design provides a regal and stately feel to a room or facade. Ornamentation is even available from Amazon.com, including Egg & Dart Switch Plate Outlet Cover Wall Plate, French Door Knobs with Egg & Dart Backplates, Decorative Flat Wood Molding in Hard Maple, Decorative Crown Molding in Hard Maple, and Wallpaper Border Cream Beige Taupe Egg Dart with Bead and Reel Faux Molding.

Examples of Egg and Dart

The photos on this page illustrate the common ornamentation use of egg-and-dart design. The top photo is a detail of an Ionic column of the Great Court at the British Museum in London, England. This column's capital shows the volutes or scrolls typical of Ionic columns. Although the scrolls are a defining characteristic of the Ionic Classical Order, the egg and dart between them are added details — architectural ornamentation more ornate than found on many earlier Greek structures.

The bottom photo is a piece of cornice from the Roman Forum in Italy. The egg-and-dart design, which would run horizontally along the top of the ancient structure, is underscored by another design called bead and reel. Look carefully at the Ionic column in the picture above, and you'll notice the same bead-and-reel design beneath that egg and dart.

The egg-and-dart design on the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece combines both of these uses — between volutes and continuous design line on the entablature. Other Roman-inspired examples include:

What is Ovolo?

Ovolo molding is another name for quarter round molding. It comes from the Latin word for egg, ovum, and is sometimes used to describe crown moulding (or crown molding) decorated with an egg and dart motif. Ensure that you understand the meaning of "ovolo" as used by your architect or contractor, because today's ovolo molding does not necessarily mean its decoration is egg and dart. So, what is ovolo?

"A convex molding less than a semi-circle in profile; usually a quarter of a circle or approximately a quarter-ellipse in profile." — Dictionary of Architecture and Construction

Other Names for Egg and Dart (with and without hyphens)

  • egg and anchor
  • egg and arrow
  • egg and tongue
  • echinus

What is Echinus and Astragal?

This design looks very similar to egg and dart with a bead and reel below. The word "echinus," however, is architecturally part of a Doric column and the word "astragal" describes a bead design more simple than bead and reel. Today, "echinus and astragal" is used by historians and students of Classical architecture — rarely by homeowners.

Sources

  • American House Styles: A Concise Guide by John Milnes Baker, AIA, Norton, 1994, p. 170
  • Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, pp. 176, 177, 344
  • Photo of capital from Great Court at the British Museum by by Javier Larrea/age fotostock/Getty Images
  • Egg-and-Dart Design on the Ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece photo by Wesley Martinez Da Costa/EyeEm/Getty Image
    Format
    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Craven, Jackie. "All About Egg-and-Dart Classical Ornamentation." ThoughtCo, Oct. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-egg-and-dart-design-177272. Craven, Jackie. (2017, October 17). All About Egg-and-Dart Classical Ornamentation. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-egg-and-dart-design-177272 Craven, Jackie. "All About Egg-and-Dart Classical Ornamentation." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-egg-and-dart-design-177272 (accessed November 23, 2017).