Portrait Luca Pacioli

Portrait Luca Pacioli
Portrait Luca Pacioli

The world of painting is extremely versatile and to its credit we find multiple relationships with other disciplines, see, for example, with literature or even with mathematics. Although a priori we might think that painting has little to do with mathematics, the truth is that there has always been a close relationship between masters, since classical antiquity artists already resorted to the mathematical canon to give their figures a certain proportion and beauty.. Well, this same concept became even more popular during the Renaissance when the same plastic artists dedicated the same time to the study of art as mathematics.


The work we are analyzing here is one of the best-known paintings dealing with mathematics, specifically it is one of the most popular portraits in all mathematics books, that of Luca Pacioli. It seems that the work -an oil on canvas in a horizontal format that is now exhibited in the National Museum of Capodimonte- would date from the end of the 15th century, specifically from the year 1495 and has been attributed to the artist Jacopo de Barbari, a painter of Venetian origin. who moved to northern Europe where he achieved great fame.

Be that as it may, the truth is that the portrait has been very successful for representing what has been considered the father of modern mathematics. Pacioli became known in the mathematical world for his work Summa de Arithmetica,Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità’ although the truth is that on the canvas the mathematician appears immersed in the world of geometry more linked to his second work De Divina Proportione, a work focused on geometry and the golden number.

In the foreground, we find a table with a green cloth on which rest multiple mathematical and scientific elements such as a compass, a pen, a blackboard… Pacioli appears dressed in the Franciscan habit and is absorbed in his work oblivious to the viewer's gaze; on the blackboard he has painted a geometric construction and in the same frame appears the name ofEuclid, it is also believed that the book he is reading is a work of the classic. In the foreground, there are some geometric bodies made of wood and devised by the humanist Leonardo da Vinci, but without a doubt what most attracts our attention is the rumbicuboctahedron,a geometric body of twenty-six faces formed by squares and triangles and that appears full of water.

Behind the mathematician in the background appears an elegantly dressed young man who looks at the viewer ignoring the work of the mathematician; experts believe he was Pacioli's apprentice, perhaps the young Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo da Montefeltro.

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