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Teacher and Student – A Lesson that Might Have Occurred

September 22, 2016

“Ora ascolta…” “Now listen. The lines start out at the edges and converge into the middle. Once they reach the middle, they spread out to the other edges. You can do it from the left and right sides, as well as the top and bottom. Sketch a flat table to cover the middle and place the Lord in the center of the table. Show six or so apostles sitting on either side focused toward Him. To maintain perspective, have the walls start out the full height of the drawing and use an angular motion to show the walls getting smaller toward the back about 1/3 of the width. Do that on both sides. Show the ceiling getting smaller and end up about 1/3 of the back width. Have the back of the ceiling drop about 1/5 of the distance from the top edge. Now you’ve maintained the perspective from a mathematical formula.”

“Si, Maestro.”

The Maestro was Fra Luca de Pacioli, the foremost mathematician of his time who was teaching his artist student and friend the technique of perspective. Today Fra Luca is known primarily as the Father of Accounting having included a section on the mathematics of commercial transactions in his 1494 Summa which was a compilation of all of the mathematical knowledge known at that time. The section gave the accounting world its double entry bookkeeping system with its “debits” and “credits.” Additionally, Pacioli was so accomplished that he published a book in 1509 which contained a geometric alphabet that he designed and which “M” has been adopted by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as their logo.

At the last part of the 15th Century, the art of perspective was relatively new and was based on mathematical principles. The student paid focused attention and kept thanking Pacioli and saying repeatedly “Si, Maestro.” When they were completed, and Pacioli was satisfied with the sketch he replied “buon lavoro, Leonardo.” “Good work, Leonardo.”

The sketch became “The Last Supper.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alan Zeitlin permalink
    September 22, 2016 10:14 am

    Another one of your incredible stories. Magnifico.

    Sent from my iPhone


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