What is an Ogee?

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English painter and cartoonist William Hogarth dubbed the ogee “the line of beauty” in his 1753 treatise, The Analysis of Beauty. 

ogee5English painter and cartoonist William Hogarth dubbed the ogee “the line of beauty” in his 1753 treatise, The Analysis of Beauty. Hogarth looked to Rococo’s curves for inspiration: “Simplicity, without variety, is wholy (sic) insipid, and at best does only not displease, but when variety is join’d to it, then it pleases, because it enhances the pleasure of variety, by giving the eye the power of enjoying it with ease.”

Hogarth’s tastes leaned conclusively towards the undulating forms of this Late Baroque movement, a style of design that revelled in natural forms like the whorls of shells and was most famously associated with the Court of King Louis XV of France. Hogarth’s support was somewhat controversial, since the Late Baroque or Rococo style was colloquially known as “the French Style” and – although aspects of it were adopted by furniture maker Thomas Chippendale – generally enjoyed far less popularity in Britain.

“There is scarce a room in any house whatever, where one does not see the waving-line employ’d in some way or other. How inelegant would the shapes unornamental the mouldings of cornices, and chimney-pieces, without the variety introduced by the ogee member, which is entirely composed of waving-lines.”

The ogee also plays a role in proportion; the Golden Mean is the formula that organises and creates proportion in art and architecture and is linked to the fact that the human eye is best pleased when objects conform to a ratio of 1 to 1,618; in other words, if a component is one unit wide, it should be 1,618 high in order to conform to the human perception of maximum attractiveness. Widely used in Greek and Roman architecture, the Golden Mean still dictates the design of the most modern residence and is an excellent way of ensuring that the results please the eye.

Apart from being a popular visual motif of many architectural styles, the ogee curve is a derivative of the Golden Mean.