The Golden Ratio in Art

Now let's go back and try to discover the Golden Ratio in art. We will concentrate on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, as he was not only a great artist but also a genius when it came to mathematics and invention. Your task is to find at least one of the following da Vinci paintings on the Internet. Make sure that you find the entire painting and not just part of it. The best way to do this is to use a search engine. I suggest either Google or Lycos. Type the name of the painting you wish to find into the search engine and see what you can come up with. Once you find the painting, return to this site for instructions on how to find the Golden Ratio. If you wish, you may borrow the image you find by right-clicking on the image and selecting "Save Image As...". Then save it to the desktop. This way you have the image on the computer you are using. If you have the capability (a color printer) it might be a good idea to print the image out as well, but this is not completely necessary.

List of paintings to look for:

The Annunciation

Madonna with Child and Saints

The Mona Lisa

St. Jerome

If you are having difficulty finding the images, try a search using the words "da Vinci" and "art gallery" together.

Directions for finding evidence of the Golden Ratio in each painting:

The Annunciation - Using the left side of the painting as a side, create a square on the left of the painting by inserting a vertical line. Notice that you have created a square and a rectangle. The rectangle turns out to be a Golden Rectangle, of course. Also, draw in a horizontal line that is 61.8% of the way down the painting (.618 - the inverse of the Golden Ratio). Draw another line that is 61.8% of the way up the painting. Try again with vertical lines that are 61.8% of the way across both from left to right and from right to left. You should now have four lines drawn across the painting. Notice that these lines intersect important parts of the painting, such as the angel, the woman, etc. Coincidence? I think not!

Madonna with Child and Saints - Draw in the four lines that are 61.8% of the way from each edge of the painting. These lines should mark off important parts of the painting, such as the angels and the baby Jesus in the center.

The Mona Lisa - Measure the length and the width of the painting itself. The ratio is, of course, Golden. Draw a rectangle around Mona's face (from the top of the forehead to the base of the chin, and from left cheek to right cheek) and notice that this, too, is a Golden rectangle.

St. Jerome - Draw a rectangle around St. Jerome. Conveniently, he just fits inside a Golden rectangle.

Conclusions - Leonardo da Vinci's talent as an artist may well have been outweighed by his talents as a mathematician. He incorporated geometry into many of his paintings, with the Golden Ratio being just one of his many mathematical tools. Why do you think he used it so much? Experts agree that he probably thought that Golden measurements made his paintings more attractive. Maybe he was just a little too obsessed with perfection. However, he was not the only one to use Golden properties in his work.




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©2001 by Mr. David L. Narain

Last Updated January 3, 2003