Leonardo Project

George W. Hart

Leonardo da Vinci illustrated Luca Pacioli's 1509 book De Devina Proportione (The Divine Proportion).  Below is one of the illustrations, Ycocedron Abscisus Vacuus, for that book.  (The drawings are beautifully hand colored like this in the Ambrosiana manuscript, reprinted by Officina Bodoni, 1956, and also by Silvana Editoriale, 1982.)  There are roughly sixty similar illustrations in the book. For the 500th anniversary of the book, I am recreating wooden models, similar to those which Leonardo must have had when making these drawings from "life". Above  is my "speculative reconstruction" in cherry, about 14 inches in diameter.  A total of180 pieces of wood were cut and assembled to make it.  The plaque is aspen with a cherry frame and they are connected with a suspension of brass wire. (No one knows how large Leonardo's models were, but I expect they were smaller, since Pacioli likely transported them around from place to place when lecturing.)  My reconstruction is in the collection of Wendy Petti, creator of Math Cats.

Below is my speculative reconstruction, also in cherry, of one of the most beautiful and complex models in the book.  This is the Duodecedron Abscisus Elevatus Vacuus, consisting of 120 equilateral triangles, made from 360 pieces of wood.  It is about 17 inches along its long diameters.

The manuscript version of this form is shown below at left.  At right is the woodcut based on the drawing, which appeared in the printed version of the book.

I feel there should be a commemorative exhibition celebrating the 500thanniversary of the Pacioli/Leonardo book, coming up in 2009.  The exhibit should include reconstructions of some or all of the wooden models and illustrations of their influence on other artists.  I am working towards organizing such an exhibition. For more information on Leonardo's polyhedra, Luca Pacioli's book, and other mathematically sophisticated artwork of the Renaissance, see the Art section of my online Encyclopedia of Polyhedra.  I have also made my own forms in this style.

Copyright 1999, George W. Hart