Tuesday, April 20, 2010

De Divina Proportione


Today, some math guys and I were discussing how we are lying artists at the core.  Yes, math has applications virtually everywhere and has helped solve huge problems that have changed the world (for example, this year I learned about the equations and theory which protect the secrecy of passwords in online banking).  But so much of theoretical, pure math is studied and researched and mastered solely for its beauty, form, construction, and logic.  We have the mindset and yearning for creativity and depth of the human mind's capacity as that of an artist but work in hiding behind the facade of math's concrete "usefulness."  We are the lying artists of the world.

I love the men and women who have torn the veil dividing mathematics and art such as Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli.  This man taught mathematics to Leonardo da Vinci and wrote a beautiful book called De Divina Proportione around 1497 in Milan.  

De Divina Proprtione discusses numerous topics including the Golden Ratio, a concept in mathematics and art where two quantities are called in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one.  The golden ratio is an irrational number, approximately 1.6180339887.  

a + b is to a as a is to b.  

The book encompasses the mathematical notions of this ratio, polygons, applications in architecture, and the use of perspective by contemporary painters.

It also contains illustrations in woodcut by Leonardo Da Vinci, Pacioli's student.
This is the first illustration in print of a rhombicuboctahedron by Da Vinci.  Try saying that baby 10 times fast... or even once.

Another fun fact, the "M" logo used at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is taken from De Divina Proportione.

Lying artists unite..  

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