Leonardo’s “Flower of Life” – c. 1478-1519. Codex Atlanticus Fol 307v
A “flower of life” is a geometrical figure that is made by creating 7 or more superimposed and evenly-spaced circles. The center of each circle is on the circumference of up to six neighboring circles of the same diameter. It’s thought, by some, to be a representation of the “Tree of life” and a symbol of “sacred geometry” that exemplifies a mathematical link to the divine.
Emblem mosaic depicting seven philosophers, cd. Academy of Plato
The mosaic in the style , framed by a rich garland of leaves, fruits and comic masks, typical of this period, depicting the meeting of a group of seven philosophers. Four are sitting on a seat semi-circular stone lion paws and three are dieting. All wear a cape, as the characteristic of the speakers and the Greek philosophers of the classical age, but one that leads below a chiton . All also have the right arm or the whole upper body discovery, with the exception of the most backward, holding hands and arms hidden by the cloak: it is probably a visitor of the Academy, whose gesture would cover your arms be interpreted as a sign of respect. The third from the left could be Plato : these, represented with a large head and broad forehead, holding a stick in his right hand and traces on the ground a few geometric figure. The other characters are intent to listen, or interact with each other. In the first you might recognize from left Heraclides of Pontus , in the second Lysias , the penultimate on the right Xenocrates , and the last on the right, in the act of taking leave in his left hand a roll that touches with his right hand, it might be Aristotle . In the background, in the view of a temple on a hill it is possible to identify the Acropolis of Athens with the Parthenon. At the bottom is placed a deposit with the celestial sphere, on which is painted a dense grid of meridians and parallels, probably connected with the discussion focused on topics of cosmological type. Around seven figures are represented, from left to right, a portal with two columns and an architrave surmounted by four covered vases (symbols of Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music, or the four seasons of the year, or the positions of the Sun ), a tree and a votive column with a sundial, typical of a landscape totally mythological, without any specific geographical reference. It could be a reference to the tomb of Academos, the legendary Attic hero, at whose grave in a wooded location on the outskirts of Athens, was built first a Gymnasium and then, of course, the Academy of Plato. To keep some sort of conference seems to be Heraclides of Pontus , pictured on the far left, while talking, placing his left hand on the shoulder of his neighbor, in the act of raising his right arm as if trying to explain something and looking in the direction of the celestial sphere, while the other figures are concentrated toward him. The theme in mosaic, disassembled at the time of the eruption from its original likely to be sold, clearly alludes to the literary and philosophical interests of the owner of the villa and probably derives from a late Hellenistic model.
(Source: National Archaeological Museum of Naples)
"In Medieval universities students learned the “trivium” of grammar, rhetoric and logic and the “quadrivium” of arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy.”
The Vesica Piscis is a symbol made from two circles of the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the center of each circle lies on the circumference of the other. The name literally means the bladder of the fish in Latin. In the Christian tradition, it is a reference to Christ, as in ichthys. It is called a mandorla (“almond”) in India and known in the early Mesopotamian, African, and Asian civilizations.
Geometry — The symbol is formed from the almond-shaped area in the overlap between the circles, as shown in black in the diagram - for certain purposes also including the upper arcs as far as the edges of a rectangle whose sides coincide with the widest points of the almond (as shown in light blue in the diagram). The resulting figure looks like a stylized fish, or in the extended version like a flattened Greek letter alpha.
Mystical and Religious Significance - It has been the subject of mystical speculation at several periods of history, perhaps first among the Pythagoreans, who considered it a holy figure. The mathematical ratio of its width (measured to the endpoints of the “body”, not including the “tail”) to its height was reportedly believed by them to be 265:153. This ratio, equal to 1.73203, was thought of as a holy number, called the measure of the fish.
The geometric ratio of these dimensions is actually the square root of 3, or 1.73205… (since if you draw straight lines connecting the centers of the two circles with each other, and with the two points where the circles intersect, then you get two equilateral triangles joined along an edge, as shown in light red in the diagram).
The ratio 265:153 is an approximation to the square root of 3, with the property that no better approximation can be obtained with smaller whole numbers. The number 153 appears in the Gospel of John (21:11) as the exact number of fish Jesus caused to be caught in a miraculous catch of fish, which is thought by some to be a coded reference to Pythagorean beliefs. Ichthys a symbol used by early Christians, more popularly known as the fish symbol is created by the almond shape and the light blue extension as seen in the Construction Diagram of the Vesica Pisces above.
Uses of the shape — Other uses of the shape include that by some early peoples of the almond-shaped central area as a representation of the female genitals, and the use of a similar (horizontally-oriented) fish symbol called the Ichthys by early Christians. In Christian art, some aureolas are in the shape of a vertically oriented vesica piscis, and the seals of ecclesiastical organizations can be enclosed within a vertically oriented vesica piscis (instead of the more usual circular enclosure). The most common modern object based on the vesica piscis is the American football, which resembles the interior almond-shaped area of the vesica piscis swept about its long “axis” to produce a 3D object with rotational symmetry.
A Young Beauty, 1875, Edward Robert Hughes
Illuminations from the Gospels of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III by the Meister der Reichenauer Schule, c. 990-1002
Saints, Tradition and Monastic Identity: The Ghent Relics, 850-1100
Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire: Tome 85 fasc. 2, 2007. Histoire medievale, moderne et contemporaine – Middeleeuwse. moderne en hedendaagse geschiedenis. pp. 223-277.
The extraordinary story ofthe Ghent relics was first told by Oswald Holder- Egger in an article published in 1886. During his work on part two of volume 15 of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores series, which Holder- Egger had just finished, he had come across the hagiographie literature produced at the abbeys of St Baafs and St Pieters in Ghent. Under the heading Monumenta S. Bavonis Gandavensis minora and Monumenta Blandiniensia minora Holder-Egger had edited extracts of most of the vitae, translationes, and miracula of the tenth and eleventh centuries concerning the saints cults of the two monasteries’3′. What must have struck him above all is the sheer number of new cults established at Ghent in the short interval between the middle of the tenth and the middle of the eleventh centuries. Indeed, the number of relic translations recorded during this time, even if divided between the two abbeys, finds no equivalent elsewhere in any one single place, not even in ninth century Saxony, where the influx of saints relics in the wake of Christianisation was particularly high.
The Lansdowne Throne of Apollo. Marble, Roman, late 1st century.
This high-backed marble throne is perhaps the most remarkable work of Roman sculpture in LACMA’s collection. Despite its elaborate decoration, the artfully decorated legs terminating in lion’s paw feet, and the front pair topped by eagle heads - it could hardly have been sat upon. Cloth and animal skin realistically drape the cushion on the seat, but they are all carved in marble. Furthermore, the back of the chair is adorned with figures in high relief. A sinuous snake weaves its way in and out of an archer’s bow, below which is a quiver full of arrows. The throne was purchased at a sale in 1798 by William Petty Fitzmaurice, second Earl of Shelburne and first Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805). His collection of ancient sculptures was among the most celebrated of its time, and many statues were acquired from Italy with the help of the Scottish artist and dealer, Gavin Hamilton (1723-1798).
The find-spot of the throne is unknown, which means that we can not be certain as to its original purpose. However, since thrones were generally associated with figures of high status, such as gods and heroes, it is reasonable to think of it in some sort of ritual or religious setting. The objects in high relief provide further clues. The bow and quiver are regularly associated with the god Apollo, and the snake might refer to the fearful serpent Python, guardian of the oracle at Delphi, which Apollo slew in his youth. The throne was given to LACMA by William Randolph Hearst, who had acquired it at the sale of the Lansdowne Collection in 1930.