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Guest Ryan Murtha

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Guest Ryan Murtha

You might like this, the picture that got me started was Leonardo da Vinci's Bacchus, pointing with both hands - you only need two points to indicate a hexagon grid. Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum confirmed analysis of two paintings. There are many, but I will attach a few good ones. 


In The Painter's Manual (1525) Dürer wrote:

Considering, however, that this is the true foundation for all painting, I have proposed myself to propound the elements for the use of all eager students of Art, and to instruct them how they may employ a system of Measurement with Rule and Compass, and thereby learn to recognize the real Truth, seeing it before their eyes.

Michelangelo thought Dürer's reliance on geometry excessive, and is reported by Vasari (The Lives of the Artists, 1550) to have said "It is necessary to keep one's compass in one's eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges."


“I began from the background, with the architecture. Once the lines were marked out, I called all my figures, one by one, and they came obediently to take their places in the perspective.” Ingres, quoted in Charles Blanc, Ingres, sa vie et ses ouvrages (1870)


When you want to draw on a wall, first level the surface and then attach pieces of wood to the legs of a pair of metal compasses, to make them as long as you want, and tie a brush to one end so that you can mark with color the proportions of the figure and describe their halos. When you have marked the proportions of the figure, take some ochre and draw first with a watery solution. - Dionysius of Fourna, Painter's Manual (1730-34)
With larger paintings, I wondered how it was done, and realized you would only need a piece of string and chalk; you would just mark the circumference, then chalk up the string and snap it on the canvas, probably on the floor, to get a grid.







Durer 1.jpg



Odd Nerdrum.jpg

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This is SO synchronistic words fail me. I just logged in to post this image and saw that Ryan had just posted the above and this is a forum topic that has largely been unvisited for months - at least by any of us who regularly post. What are the chances?

Anyway the above is fascinating and I was going to write to say I take it all back about deciding there was only a slim chance, due to the printing press procedure, that they were using sacred geometry on the cover and dedication of the sonnets: look at this.

It’s in a book I just purchased today. It should/must be credited to Wooden Books and the author Adam Tetlow.

Here is where you can purchase your own copy of Harmonic Geometry and others in their amazing series.



This method dates to the 1200s! 

Edited by Kate
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Guest Ryan Murtha
14 hours ago, Kate said:

This is SO synchronistic words fail me. I just logged in to post this image and saw that Ryan had just posted the above and this is a forum topic that has largely been unvisited for months - at least by any of us who regularly post. What are the chances?

This method dates to the 1200s! 

The Villard Folio came up in my research-

The 13th-century folio of Villard de Honnecourt, an artist connected with cathedral builders in France, includes the following recipe:

Retain that which I will tell you. Take leaves of red cabbage, and of avens - this is an herb which one calls 'bastard cannabis.' Take a herb which one calls tansy and hemp - this is the seeds of cannabis. Crush these four herbs so that there is nothing more of the one than of the other. Afterwards you take madder two times more than any one of the four herbs, then you crush it, then you put these five herbs in a pot. And you put white wine to infuse it, the best that you are able to have, being somewhat with care that the potions not be too thick, and that one is able to drink them



Villard Folio.pdf

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I finally got around to read it. Thanks for sharing, it is very interesting but I was slightly disappointed by the lack of  drawings, there is just reference to all but 4 of them. I went on a search and found this. It has all 33:

Facsimile of the sketch-book of Wilars de Honecort, an architect of the thirteenth century https://archive.org/details/facsimileofsketc00vill/mode/2up



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  • 6 months later...
5 hours ago, RoyalCraftiness said:

Great topic. This is an area I have spent a great deal of time studying. Commenters often don't know what to call these reference lines. The lines that come out of a rectangular frame which relates to the corners and to the intersections of lines from them to define points (and their projection to the sides to give ratios) are what is called, boringly, armatures. An armature need not be just that. Armatures produce what is termed "dynamic symmetry"  of the sort you show. That was extremely desirable to produce works which contain multiple elements that are fixed upon points of high coincidence. The more coincidence there was in points, the more importance those points had to guide the planning. In fact, much of the game of Art in this period is to try and produce works emulating nature which display the underlying relationship to pleasing geometric symmetry. The use of circular armatures was common. There are pentagonal (star shaped) ones in many examples of Baroque art. The fledgling appreciation for Euclid's works in Europe also meant that basic geometric constructions started to appear as armatures in the composition of works. The "flower of life" design will get used as armature. It will keep on going into Golden spirals and anything which the creator will want to employ to guide his composition. It was a bit of a game played by some to try and detect what was guiding the composition of some paintings. Add to that the fact that one can place at a point of highest coincidence an element loaded with symbolism of its own. Because much of art was of the religious kind, it makes the use of geometry in it be referred to as "sacred geometry". There isn't anything particularly sacred about it. Much of it is arrived to by basic construction methods. It is the additional "theology of number" of the Pythagoreans, for example, that imparts meaning to art that is often exploited.

Here's an example of a study I made of a work by Rembrandt depicting St James, the brother of Jesus. The rectangular frame is divided in a 4x3 array of rectangles with obvious suggestion of 12. James was one of 12. The elements in the painting are arranged around a series of concentric circles (9 of them) evenly spaced which have a center which coincides with the bottom corner where the Bible is placed (the object of focus is the point of most coincidence). There's an esoteric meaning to the 9 levels. Part of that suggestion is an idea which relates to the mystery hidden deep within the vault under the 9 levels  (arches) in Enoch's prophetic story.  However, Enoch isn't a Biblical story. Those legends were scrubbed out of the Christian corpus at the council of Nicea. The content of the vault are said to be only attainable by adherence to the word of God. The artwork suggests as much. It is worth taking a minute and looking at how the paintings' scant elements are made to fit in the rectangular frame and be guided by the circle arcs. The hands, wrist, fingers, nose, etc. All find a place in the composition based on the guiding effects of the lines.

There's a lot of this in one of Bacon's works which I have studied profusely, Sylva Sylvarum. There are multiple armatures guiding the composition in that one. All seem to have a pertinent relationship to philosophical ideas which we current at the time.spacer.png


Hi R.C. -  If we measure the distances between the concentric arcs on this slightly enlarged image, using the yellow vector and working from the inside outwards, there is quite a bit of variation, i.e. the arcs aren't equidistant: 22mm, 24mm, 26mm, 28mm, 24mm, 25mm, 25mm (approx. just using a ruler). The application of circular geometry to classical and renaissance paintings is very interesting, especially in this case where the arcs are centred on the Bible as you pointed out. Also the vertical and horizontal division of the panel into twelve rectangles is brilliant! But to be fair, perhaps the arcs should be redrawn more precisely? 🙂

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