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Dürer's Magic Square
Engraving "Melancholia I"
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is generally considered to be Germany's most famous Renaissance artist. He was about 20 years younger than Leonardo da Vinci and around 1500 became greatly interested in the relationship between mathematics and art. Leonardo and his contemporary, mathematician Pacioli, almost certainly influenced Dürer in these studies. In 1514 he created the copperplate engraving named "Melancholia I" which contained his magic square - the first magic square published in Europe.
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. the unsolved geometry problem. and the empty oscillating balance .html (2 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM . The winged figure illustrates simultaneously the dangers and satisfactions of the intellectual activity. the hydrophobic dog. Dürer's magic square Dürer's square from engraving Albrecht Dürer (self portrait at 28 years) http://www.Dürer's Magic Square Engraving Melancholia I / 24 x 19 cm This copper engraving by Albrecht Dürer has been viewed as a self portrait of the artist and the essence of German Humanism.com/Durer_en. the falling sand of the hourglass. The ladder leaning against the building indicating that this is unfinished.. It is the image of the creative spirit of the man alone with his inner thoughts. all this sums up despair to Melancholia. the cupid above a wheel.taliscope.
Dürer's Magic Square Dürer's magic square. Gellert et al.g. Burton 1989. each column. as well as the sum of the middle four numbers. 3+5+11+15. There are actually thirteen different ways of dividing this square into four groups of four cells. The sum 34 can be found in the rows. the two sets of four symmetrical numbers (2+8+9+15 and 3+5+12+14) and the sum of the middle two entries of the two outer columns and rows (e. each of the quadrants. Actually. It is thus a gnomon magic square. Dürer's magic square. The positions in the Dürer square can be seen as a finite vector space.taliscope. with each group of four cells adding to 34. The engraving shows a disorganized jumble of scientific equipment lying unused while an intellectual sits absorbed in thought. then the numbers in its group will be enlarged and highlighted in red. in which each set of four groups of four cells is a set of parallel affine planes.com/Durer_en. Dürer's magic square is located in the upper right-hand corner of the engraving. is an example of a gnomon magic square since the sums in any of the four quadrants (as well as the sum of the middle four numbers) are all 34. is a magic square with magic constant 34 used in an engraving entitled Melancholia I by Albrecht Dürer (The British Museum. 1989). Henrich Dürer's magic square has the additional property that the sums in any of the four quadrants. and each diagonal adds up to 34. a property http://www. The numbers 15 and 14 appear in the middle of the bottom row. e. as well as several kite-shaped quartets. these are the traditional magic properties. any pair of numbers symmetrically placed about the center of the square sums to 17. Applet by Christopher J. the corner squares.html (3 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM . diagonals. p. 1514. the four outer numbers clockwise from the corners (3+8+14+9) and likewise the four counter-clockwise. If you click on one of the cells. But there is more magic to be found here. 24). 5+9+8+12).g. In addition. A gnomon magic square is a 4×4 magic square in which the elements in each 2×2 corner have the same sum. the center four squares. Each row. there are 86 different combinations of four numbers from the Dürer's square that sum to it's magic number. these numbers are reproduced in more modern style. These groupings of cells are not arbitrary. a best-known and most enigmatic. 34! In the applet below. indicating the date of the engraving. illustrated above. The menu in the applet can be used to select among these. are all 34 (Hunter and Madachy 1975. columns.
html (4 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM .taliscope. occurs in the middle of the bottom row. Dürer probably chose this particular 4-by-4 square because the date he did the work. including the original). obtained by rotation (4 figures. So now our magic square matches the one in Dürer's etching. Remember that any magic square has eight different "forms" or eight different "figures".Dürer's Magic Square making the square even more magical. 16 5 9 4 3 10 6 15 2 11 7 14 13 8 12 1 4 9 5 16 1 14 15 4 6 9 13 8 2 3 12 1 14 15 4 15 6 14 7 1 10 3 11 2 13 12 7 8 11 7 10 6 9 11 10 5 3 16 12 8 Rotation 13 2 16 5 Original ¼ 1 Rotation ½ 13 Rotation ¾ 4 15 14 13 2 8 3 16 4 9 5 15 14 1 6 7 12 12 8 16 5 3 2 9 11 10 5 6 9 14 7 15 6 4 9 11 2 10 3 5 16 10 6 11 7 12 7 1 10 11 8 2 13 14 15 4 Symmetry 1st median 16 3 13 8 12 1 Symmetry 2nd median Symmetry 2nd diagonal Symmetry 1st diagonal http://www. by symmetry with respect to median (2 figures) and by symmetry in relation to the main diagonal (2 figures). The 8 forms of Dürer's square The eight figures of the magic square of Dürer are represented above. It usually changes the diagonal sums. Interchanging columns does not change the column sums or the row sums. 1514. but in this case both diagonal sums are still 34.com/Durer_en.
which were almost religiously used as Albrecht Durer's monogram. and D. Even more. C=3.taliscope. Dürer used another.html (5 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM . the number that conceals both the master and the title of the masterwork. I could be read as Eins [in German.. and the number on the left of the date is 4 equaling D according to gematric value. . The sum of all the numbers in the Durer's magical square is 136.Dürer's Magic Square Dürer's magic square with lines From Suzanne Alejandre Numerology of Melancholia I This section presents some funny results pointed by David Bowman. variant of the spelling of his name ALBRECHT DVRER: ALBRECHT DVRER = (1+12+2+18+5+3+8+20)+(4+22+18+5+18) = 136 MELENCOLIA I is the engraved title. The year of the engraving is written as 15-14. B=2. the number on the right is 1 which is the same as A in simple Masonic code of values [A=1. I = One = Eins]: MELENCOLIA EINS = (13+5+12+5+14+3+15+12+9+1)+(5+9+14+19) = 136 http://www. Latin. at bottom line. Z=26].com/Durer_en.. Both numbers are therefore interchangeable with letters A.
. and was known since ancient times.. the Grand Architect. . This number is significant since it equals the value of Jesus Christ in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ = 888+1480 = 2368 163+213+510+118+96+712+415+141 = 2368 This could be Dürer's homage to the Demiurge. The dimensions of Durer's engraving are approximately 18.9 x 24. Given an normal magic square.14159. 2. Using the formula for this sum.1 cm. which is simultaneously also a module of the composition. + n2 = . a Symbolic Elements in Melencolia I and http://www. and so on. This specific ratio was used in classical compositions very often.. holding an open compass. Then since there are n rows the sum of all the numbers in the magic square must be . and so on) and added together than the value of 2368 is obtained.. a frequent symbol of many orthodox icons representing Christ as Pantocrator. But the numbers being added are 1. suppose M is the number that each row. In . 2 and 13 = 213. If two fields are taken for a number (16 and 3 = 163.. a Albrecht Dürer's to M = 34. 3. and summation notation. and so 1 + 2 + 3 + . Mathematics of Dürer's Magic Square The magic constant of a normal magic square depends only on n and has the value M = (n3 + n)/2. then solving for M gives .. Thus. we have . n2.. column and diagonal must add up to. a Lo Shu's normal magic square must have its rows.com/Durer_en. which is also one of the aspects of the central figure of the Melencolia I. mostly because it is derived from the ratio 22:7 that closely approximates Pi = 3. columns and diagonals adding to Benjamin Franklin's to M = 260.Dürer's Magic Square There is also another mathematical joke concealed in the numbers.taliscope. 5 and 10 = 510. The importance of Pi for the composition of Melencolia I is emphasized by the sphere in the lower left corner of the engraving. which comes very close to the ratio of 11:14. Here is the proof.html (6 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM .
Patrick Doorly has shown that the engraving is much indebted to Plato's Hippias Major and even more http://www. which correspond to the date of the engraving. mother of Albrecht Dürer.html (7 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM . Erwin Panofsky (a German Jewish art historian) proposed the most authoritative interpretation of Melencolia I as Dürer's "spiritual self portrait". Interpretations of Melencolia I The square in the Melencholia is a special type of magic square. 3. In this type.Dürer's Magic Square interpretations Elements of the picture Among the most conspicuous are: 1. The despondent winged figure of genius 7. The purse and keys 8. The lamb is often associated with the myth of Argonauts and the Golden Fleece. This is a gnomon magic square. Suggestions that a series of engravings on the subject was planned are not generally accepted. Mathematical knowledge is referenced by the use of the symbols: compass. The 4 × 4 magic square. Instead it seems more likely that the "I" refers to the first of the three types of melancholia defined by the German humanist writer Cornelius Agrippa. with the two middle cells of the bottom row giving the date of the engraving: 1514. scale. magic square. hourglass 10. and also the sum of the central square. unused 2. which he held artists to be subject to. the numbers 15 and 14.taliscope. The comet and rainbow in the sky 9. Melencholia Imaginativa. it is also the date of the death of Barbara.com/Durer_en. geometrical solid. The hourglass showing time running out 5. The empty scale (balance) 6. the sum in one of its four quadrants. 1514. The truncated rhombohedron with a faint human skull on it (over the years. The engraving Melancholia I. The tools of geometry and architecture surround him. are 34. there have been numerous articles disputing the precise shape of this polyhedron) 4. In the middle of the last line. This square should be a positive influence against melancholy. features a frustrated thinker sitting by an uncommon polyhedron. 'imagination' predominates over 'mind' or 'reason'. the magical value of the square.
"The Melancholy Octahedron" Mathematics Magazine. H. P. 1981. architecture and religion. MELENCOLIA I: Dürers Denkbild. http://www. NJ: Princeton University Press. 17–83.html (8 of 8)2/22/2010 11:43:12 AM . 2004. pp. Mann Verlag. Federico. London: Nelson. (Albrecht Durer. Proc. Patrick Doorly. Peter-Klaus (1991). Schuster. 1994. Sharp. 30-36. C. by mathworld. MacGillavry. Albrecht Durer's Melencolia. 1982. David Bowman. Panofsky. Erwin. Princeton.com/Durer_en. T. J. J. 1964.. Durer's Melencolia I: Plato's abandoned search for the beautiful. REFERENCES q q q q q q q q q q q q q Albrecht Dürer. "The Polyhedron in A. Sept. June 1. Interpretation of this Drawing. The Life and Art of Albrecht Durer. 226-232.. Erwin. Saturn and melancholy. Klibansky. by Wikipedia Melencolia I.taliscope.Dürer's Magic Square to Luca Pacioli's book De Divina Proportia. John Read. Raymond. Fritz. Mathematics in School. Warburg and Courtauld Inst. Lynch. "Durer's Melancholy Octahedron". "The Geometric Body in Durer's Engraving Melancholia I" J. 1972. 18-20. Wikipedia Duerer's Magic Square. Saxl. Deciphering Melencolia-I. The Art Bulletin. Alternative view on art. John Read has commented on the alchemic symbolism of the engraving. pp. Berlin: Gebr. Panofsky. German printmaker)(Critical Essay). New York: Basic Books Inc. Durer's 'Melancolia I': An Over 450 Years Old Puzzle Solved ?" Netherland Akad Wetensch.wolfram. 1955.com.
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