When mathematics and art meet as equals, magic happens. One of those extraordinary meetings happened in Milan between 1498 and 1499, and it produced 60 of the most remarkable drawings of the Renaissance. Here is one:
Leonardo da Vinci, Illustration for De Divina Proportione, 1498-99 (published 1509)
In 1498 Leonardo da Vinci was working as a painter and engineer for the Duke of Milan. At the same time, he was taking math lessons from his friend and roommate Luca Pacioli, who was writing De Divina Proportione, a book about geometry and proportions in math and arts.
Pacioli asked Leonardo da Vinci to illustrate parts of the book, and that’s when the magic happened. Da Vinci produced what are considered to be the first accurate representations of solids in 3D, which are not only geometrically correct, but also absolutely stunning:
Two copies of the manuscript survive today, one in Milan and one in Geneva, which are sometimes on display:
Photo by Leonardo3
Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione (1509) became a highly influential book for architects and artists, and it remains one of the most significant works in the long history of the relationship between math and art, a relationship that has produced some of the most beautiful architecture, painting, and music in the west.