by Nikhat Parveen, UGA


The Renaissance was a great cultural movement which brought about a period of scientific revolution and artistic transformation, at the dawn of modern European history. It marks the transitional period between the end of the middle Ages and the start of the Modern Age. The Renaissance is usually considered to have begun in the 14th century in Italy and the 16th century in northern Europe. It is also known as "Rinascimento" (in Italian).

The Renaissance artists used the Golden Mean extensively in their paintings a The Renaissance artists used the Golden Mean extensively in their paintings and sculptures to achieve balance and beauty. Leonardo Da Vinci, for instance, used it to define all the fundamental proportions of his painting of "The Last Supper," from the dimensions of the table at which Christ and the disciples sat to the proportions of the walls and windows in the backgroundnd sculptures to achieve balance and beauty.


The Renaissance artists
knew it as the
Divine Proportion



and used it for beauty
and balance in the
design of art


Was the pentagon as important during the Middle Ages through Renaissance as it was during the time of Pythagoras? Definitely. In fact, until the Middle Ages, no one realized exactly how important it was. Only then was the particular proportion of its elements was considered divine and attributed an unique mysticism.



In Stephan Lochener's painting "The Virgin in the Rose Garden" a circle tangent to the sides holds a double pentagon. One of the pentagons is at the bottom of the painting, placed an equal distance from the parts determining the circle. Certain diagonals of the pentagon are extended make the construction of the arbour. The small wall that surrounds the Virgin follows the arch of the pentagon at the top of the picture.



After the Middle Ages, the pentagon continued to be used in some parts of the world as a sign that represented the craftsmen. Most of the time this sign was placed next to where craftsman's name was carved on his work.



 The publishing of Fra Pacioli's book "The Divine {roportion", in Venice in 1509 turned its subject from a memory of the past to the news of the day. Pacioli's work, with paintings made by Leonardo da Vinci, established five proprieties which makes the golden ratio worthy of the name "divine"(or "dal ciel mandata"):



In the Middle Ages the composition was based, in general, on a Pythagorean geometrical figure; the complex pattern is followed to the smallest bit of detail, but most of the time hidden from the profanes--the non-artist community. The usage of the pentagons in art was unsophisticated--artists used them to place surfaces in an aesthetic arrangement, but never realized the complexity of what they were dealing with.


 For example, when Vermeer created "The Painter's Workshop", he filled the space with tables, chairs, an easel, curtains...basically with lines, planes, angles and perspectives. Being brought to the surface of the painting, these lines are part of a network composed by orthogonal and oblique lines afferent to the golden ratio. But wait, there's more: Vermeer seeks to render the exact perception of the objects by using contrast between colors to create light and depth.






The Germans, influenced by mathematics of the time, brought the Golden Ratio to light once again during the early nineteenth century. The father Didier(P. Lenz) made the "holy measure" the artistic creed of the Benedictine monastery from Beuron.




 The French artists had known the golden ratio through Serusier. Serusier, who published his book, "ABC de la peinture" in 1921 , was teaching his students at the Ranson academy as early as 1908 the principles of the Golden Ratio.



The cubists (Jacques Villon, Marcel and Raymond Duchamp, Picabia) were impressed by these principles and even organized "The Golden Ratio Exhibition " in 1912. Jacques Villon said "As in the Middle Ages one told a prayer before beginning a painting, I relay on the golden section for the surety of ancient times".


But the French painters did not dare to go so far in pure geometry and in the use of the golden ratio as the Dutch painter Mondrian. Mondrian was a member of the group that published the "De Stijl" magazine, with a large influence on painters, sculptors and architects. In the magazine he published many of his thoughts and meditations: the art must seek the peace and quiet of the soul, which can be achieved only by the harmony of ratios and straight lines. In Broadway Boogie - Woogie, the horizontals and the verticals are all in the golden ratio.






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