Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Secret Geometry of Florence

From L'Italo-Americano:
Michelangelo, Raffaello, Leonardo... and then again Leonardo, Galileo, and many more famed artists and scientists: there is no doubt that Firenze – the Renaissance City – has been for centuries the real keystone of both Western art and modern science. In fact, it appears that some of the leading figures of the city’s art scene were also very well-versed in subjects as diverse as geometry, mathematics, astronomy, and anatomy, among others. In spite of this well-known fact, though, the intersection between architecture and mathematical proportions which plays such a crucial role in making Florence’s churches and palaces look so perfect is still often overlooked. Let’s take a walk through the “city of art and science,”  stop in front of its main sights and look more closely at their façades in search of Firenze’s sacred geometry: a “secret geometry” as well, after all.

 Our “scientific tour” of the city’s historic center cannot but begin in the Piazza del Duomo main square. We could almost say that everything we really need to know about the geometry of Florence stands right here in front of us, under everyone’s eyes, in one of the most visited places in the whole planet. Although the secrets of the unique buildings that make up the complex of Santa Maria del Fiore are there for all to see,  only a small part of the millions of people that every year visit these monuments, taking pictures and selfies and sending postcards all over the world actually seems to notice.

 Take, for example, the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of Saint John), the oldest building in the square: a single glance cannot possibly help us figure out just how complex, awe-inspiring, and perfect this monument is. Of course, it is easy to detect its octagon-shaped design, shared by other similar religious buildings: but what about each of its eight sides? Every single one of them is divided horizontally into three sections, in turn split vertically into just as many parts: the upper section, in particular, is made up of three small windows included in a three-part pattern, while the middle one has three blind arches, each including a bigger window.

This tangle of geometrical shapes might seem complicated enough as it is: but again, what about the carefully planned alternation of white Carrara marble and green Prato marble? And what about the sequence of the bronze door panels by masters Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano, to say nothing of the building’s interiors? Sure enough, the Baptistery’s ground-breaking commingling of art and science does not end there: apart from the awesomeness of the triangular ceiling mosaics under the dome, San Giovanni also hides within it an unexpected tribute to astronomy engraved on the marble floor, namely a solstice sundial representing the signs of the Zodiac. (Read more.)
 Via Anthony Visco. Share

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