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Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler
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Science and Art of Animating Statues by David Fideler

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“According to the ancient Egyptian Hermetic writing entitled the Asclepius or Perfect Discourse, one of the magical arts of antiquity involved the animation of statues.Through this art,the statue …

“According to the ancient Egyptian Hermetic writing entitled the Asclepius or Perfect Discourse, one of the magical arts of antiquity involved the animation of statues.Through this art,the statue became the home of a living spirit…”

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  • 1. Source: ALEXANDRIA: The Journal of the Western Cosmological Traditions, Volume 2, pp. 95-110
  • 2. The Science and Art ofAnimating Statues DAVID FIDELER ForJohn Michell ACCORDING TO the ancient Egyptian Hermetic writing entitled the Asclepius or Perfect Discourse, one of the magical arts of antiquity involvedthe animation ofstatues. Through this art, the statue became the home of a living spirit so that what is ofheavenly nature, being drawn down into the images by means of heavenly use and practices, may be enabled to endure with joy the nature of mankind, and sojourn with it for long periods of time.' Elsewhere, in the same writing, it is told how our ancient ancestors chanced upon the "art of making gods" out of some material sub­ stance: And to this invention they added a supernatural force whereby the images mighthave the power to work good or hurt, and combined it with the material substance; that is to say, being unable to make souls, they invoked the souls ofspirits and implanted them in the statues by means of holy and sacred rites.' The notion ofstatues being so carefully wrought that they come to life is an archetypal, universal notion. It appears, for instance, in the Greek myth ofPygmalion. He fell so in love with Aphrodite that he made, with great care and exquisite craftsmanship, a beautiful ivory 95
  • 3. 96 OAVIO FIDELER image of her. The goddess, impressed by Pygmalion's devotion, entered into the image and brought it to life as Galatea, who bore him Paphus and Methanne. In ancient Egypt, not only were the bas reliefs of the temples designed to become the receptacles ofliving spirits, but the temple itself was conceived of as the very incarnation of the god. As E. A. E. Reymond notes in his book on The Mythical Origin ofthe Egyptian Temple, The temple was regarded asa livingentity. We are already fam.iliar with the ideas of the temple and its reliefs being animated, but it appears that there was more than mere animation. Reasons are cited for suggesting that the temple wasconceived as the material embodiment of the God-of the-Temple who attained concrete form in the temple, and who was the Son of the Earth. In antiquity, the practice of animating temples, bas reliefs, and statues was conceived of as both an art and a science. In its scientific aspect, the art of animating statues drew upon the ancient canon of proportion, itself based on those ubiquitous geometrical ratios which underlie the forms of nature and the unfolding patterns of life. In the Laws 6560, Plato refers to the canon of mu sic and proportion which maintained the integrity of Egyptian art for no less than ten thousand years. As Plato writes, Ifyou inspect their paintings and reliefson the spot, you willfind that the work of ten thousand years ago--I mean the expression not loosely but in all precision-is neither better nor worse than that of today; both exhibit an identical artistry. The ultimate origins of the canon remains mysterious; evidence of its use is very early. Plato concluded that it "must have been the doing of a god, or a godlike man-s-as, in fact, the local tradition is that the melodies which have been preserved for so many years were the work oflsis." SCIENCE Al'ID ART The existence of such a canon is cal archaeologists and universally accepted were two Egyptian canons: the earliestdi being into I9 squares; the later canonw squares. These canons provided a frarr when rendering the human form andtht can deny th e existence ofthecanon,forin is sti ll visible on surviving temple walls. Egyptian canon was taken over by theea tors, as has been shown by the studie Guralnick.' Despite the acceptance ofthe useofill, art, few Egyptologists have any awarenes ratios and proportional schemes thatwer tian art. One such geometrical proporticj Golden Section. In this article, I will shl incorporated into the design of a basrei canon of 19 squares. This bas reliefdepi B.C.E.) facing a goddess, and is plate4j Proportionsin Egyptian Art. Wh ileIverse ofthe canonical grid system, he fails todi and canonical ratios in Egyptian art,' The "Divine Proportion" The so-called Divine Proportion, Gal one of the most ubiquitous ratios foundin spacing of seeds on a sunflower, the dis various forms of natural spirals, andtheI is generally associated with the principl ematically speaking, it is defined as (~5 controlling ratio ofthe pentagonandisals square, whose diagonal is-VS. Earlierin phi ratio or cP, named after Phidias,the for the colossal Athena in the Partheno
  • 4. 97:LER :ion, him liefs ,but god. {the with ;that sting' d-of sthe and itific m of hich 1 the hich sand atthe ybut both ceof loing t the work SCIENCE AND ART The existence of such a canon is confirmed by the research of archaeologists and universally accepted by all Egyptologists. There were two Egyptian canons: the earliest divided the height of a human being into 19 squares; the later canon was based on a division of 22 squares. These canons provided a framework for Egyptian artists when rendering the human form and the forms of the gods . No one candeny the existenceofthe canon, for in some instances the gridwork isstill visible on surviving temple walls. Interestingly, the 19-square Egyptian canon was taken over by the early Greek artists and sculp­ tors, as has been shown by the studies of archaeologist Eleanor Guralnick.J Despite the acceptance of the use of the canonical grid in Egyptian art, few Egyptologists have any awareness of the types ofgeometrical ratios and proportional schemes that were widely employed in Egyp­ tian art. One such geometrical proportion is the so-called phi ratio or Golden Section. In this article, I will show how this proportion was incorporated into the design of a bas relief that is also based on the canon of 19squares.This bas reliefdepicts Arnenophis III (13 91- 13S 3 S.C.E.) facing a goddess, and is plate 4 in Erik Iversen's Canon and Proportionsin Egyptian Art. While Iversen's work is an excellent study ofthe canonical grid system, he fails to discuss the use of the dynamic and canonical ratios in Egyptian art." The "Divine Proportion" T he so-called Divine Proportion, Golden Section, or phi ratio is oneofthe most ubiquitous ratios found in living forms .It controls the spacing of seeds on a sunflower, the distribution of leaves on plants, various forms of natural spirals, and the ratios of the human form . It is generally associated with the principle of gnomic growth. Math­ ematically speaking, it is defined as (-VS+1 )12 = 1.618034... It is the controlling ratio of the pentagon and is also associated with the double square, whose diagonal is-VS. Earlier in this century it was entitled the phi ratio or cP, named after Phidias, the Greek sculptor who is famous for the colossal Athena in the Parthenon and the colossal Zeus at
  • 5. 98 DAVID FIDELER Olympia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The simplestway to generate the phi ratio is shown in Figure 1. This technique produces a Golden Rectangle, which can be infinitely continued into a series of"whirling squares."These squares are linked with one another in continuous geometrical proportion (in Greek, analogia) which embodies the ratio <t>. The ancient Greeks referred to <t> as "the extreme and mean division of a line" (Euclid 6.30), which is the unique property of this propor­ tion. In other words, the smaller division is to the larger division as the larger division is to the whole: .618 is to 1 as 1 is to 1.618. In Figure 2we see how <t> is related to the geometry of the pentagon. Here, if length AB =1, then Be =<t>. A useful method for dividing any line segment at the <t> division is illustrated in Figure 3. Figure 4 shows a well known property of <t> in relation to the proportions ofthe human body: while the height ofthe bodyis divided in halfby the genitals, the position ofthe navel indicates the <t> division. The <t> ratio possesses many unique and magical properties. For example: <t> + 1 =<t>2 or 1.618 + 1 = 1.6182 or 1.618 x 1.618 = 2.618 <t> x (<t> - 1) = 1 or 1.618 x (1.618 - 1) = 1 or 1.618 x .618 = 1 <t>2 x(<t>-1)2=1 <t>2 + (<t> - 1)2 = 3 In the Renaissance, Luca Pacioli wrote a book about the Golden Section entitled The DivineProportion, a work illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci. According to Pacioli, the phi ratio is"divine" for five reasons: 1)Like God , it is unique; 2) Asthe HolyTrinity is one substance in three persons, so the Section is one proportion in three terms; 3) As God cannot be defined in words, the Section cannot be described by any number or rational quality because it is irrational and, hence, occult and secret; 4) Like God, it is always similar to itself; 5) As celestial virtue or SCIENCE AND ART Figure 1. The construction of a Golden Rectangle from aSql of C/>, 1.618034...
  • 6. 99FIDELER e1.This nfinitely :elinked L Greek, division propor­ masthe :ntagon. visron is L to the :divided livision. ies. For 8 = 1 Golden eonardo reasons: :inthree lAs God 1by any xult and virtue or SCIENCE AND ART IE K ----~)kIf_-, 6 1 8034..,~ 1 -, " , ,, .. , ., , Figure 1. Theconstruction ofa Golden Rectangle from a square brings out the proportion of<1>, 1.618034...
  • 7. 100 DAVID FIDELER B C Figure 2. Phi as the Controlling Ratio of the Pentagon If length AB = 1, then Be =q, = 1.618.034 Figu re 3. Phi and the Location of the Navel SCIENCE Al'ID ART 1/2 AB Figure 4. Technique for Cutting Any To cut any line AB at me phi division, erectapel end of me line, and connect to meoppositeend. divide me line at me phi division, so that lie sm. me larger part is to me whole. quintessence has made possible the creatil which the whole of nature was made, so possible the constru ction of lie dode complex Platonic solid and the epitome Analysis of the Bas Relief As I studied the bas relief in Iversen's th ere was more more going on inthepiec account for . For example, there seems to present between the goddess and the p Additionally, the hair of the goddess w obviously one unit wide. Why, then,didn th e goddess and the similarly positione perfectly align with the grid? It certainlj composition.
  • 8. 101SCIENCEAJ.'TD ART 112 AB Figure 4. Technique for Cutting Any Line at the Phi Division To cut any line ABat the phi division, erect a perpendicular that is 1/2 AB at the endofthe line, and connect to the opposite end. Arcing the compassasshown will divide the line at the phi division, so that the smaller part is to the larger part as thelarger part is to the whole. quintessence has made possible the creation of the four elements out of which the whole of nature was mad e, so the Divine Proportion makes possible the construction of the dodecahedron, the fifth and most complex Platonic solid and the epitome of quintessence. Analysis of the Bas Relief AsI studied the bas reliefin Iversen 's book, it became obvious that therewas more more going on in the piece than the square grid would account for. For example, there seems to be a mysterious symmetry present between the goddess and the pharaoh as gaze meets gaze. Additionally, the hair of the goddess which falls down her front is obviously one unit wide. Why, then, didn't the artist make the hair of the goddess and the similarly positioned headdress of Arnenophis perfectly align with tlle grid? It certainly would have simplified the composition.
  • 9. If we superimpose a double square on both the goddess and Arnenop his as shown in Figure 5 and 6, we can begin to see the geometrical reciprocity between the two figures. The diagonal of the doubl e square is ";5, the root of1>, and the eyes of the two figures are clearly positioned at the apex of the resulting triangles. In Figure 7,we see how the 1> ratio determines the placement ofthe navel on the pharaoh. Figure 7. .......... NCEANDART - ~ I !7 . ~ / f-­ ...r y ! 1';u~L I~ IJI I p:... "R ~ vI'--­ ~ 1 V rw / ~IV~ <:-) / r IJ /f I~ ~Vi!rr-t---C;1' II 1...... i V 1/ t-­ / r-­ 1 1I / , Vi ~~ I 11'1/ ~ ~~: ~- ' / I . ~t>V SCIEDAVID FlDELER Figure 6. .. ,~ -­ 0l----l--­ ~V IVJ f-l, '0 , ! 1, III I f7 I U r--, ~ r> 1"---"1 III 11 I " +-­ / ,: r: 1/1 177 ~ ~V/! -y , h v 1/ 1/ i=f 7 F=I F= == ) 1 1/ 1/ I 1/ ) I l- I/ I / l- I­ / .7 l­ . II 1= VI! J~ IAI 17 rrr j I V J ). 1/ V l- I I I ~l- II 1/ 1/ r-. ::>V /1 1 " "I'l/ IX. 1/ ,t- J ,/ f - I h 1/ 1/ ;::::"V II I---V Figure 5. / 1, 102
  • 10. 103DELER ~s and see the IIofthe iresare ttofthe SCIENCE AND ART ~ 1/ 17 / Ji i V 1/ '~Ii 1+_--i_H­---Ptitl ~ ~.~ I 1/ nr ~ / Figure 7.
  • 11. -- 104 DAVID FIDELER il ~Ui I I 1/ - / / ------. / Figure 8. - W-e !=:: N ;, ~f ~ ~ 0 :--rJ I";;" ,1-;" J 1 1// Fe 1 lil u l.... ,....". ..-: --, II-> V - ~f-­ - 0 r~ VJI ~ ~/ _1 II) / ~ V 1 I I I-F= 1/ I ,/ - - I - - - I-: - " / r­ 1 f- I 1=~~ J 1 rlf / I 1/ f-­ / I he-­ / i'--~V ~r--' Figure 9. Figure 8 illustrates the underlying ratio which determines the placement of the goddess' hair and the pharaoh 's headdress. They are positioned by reference to a "double sided" Golden Rectangle which has the proportion of l:v5. Figure9 shows a larger v5rectangle based on the double squares of Figures 5 and 6. In Figure 10 the two previous geometries are combined, with the armbands highlighted. T he phi ratio controls the placement ofevery arm band in the composition! Figures 11 and 12 show the precise harmonic division of a square based on the phi ratio. The phi ratio determines the placement ofthe arm bands. In Figure 12 this square is centered on th e ankh which is being carried by the pharaoh. The ankh is the Egyp tian hieroglyph which denotes the unfolding principle of life. SCIENCE AND ART ~ 1~@<, ~r-- V­ ~~~ ~I ~ IJ/ p:,. ~kJ =;:::::",. '~0-~I -> r ~ ~ / ~ rn ~lJ I "r ~Vj!I~ ~ • <, f //~I ~ / / I~ I / 'A Jr ~/ L~ 1/'I / IJ, 'I WillI 1/ I 1/ / / V IJ J I I / I/ r :-....I ~::>V Figure lO.
  • 12. 105)ELER es the ley are which aresof 1mthe fevery square :of the hich is oglyph SCIENCE A1',TD ART "~~t:.-~ -.., £ il ~ ~ ~ ~~ / (I i · u V 1/ " Figure 10.
  • 13. 106 DAVID FIDELER SCIENCE AND ART / / I I 7 lL.-+1---+1 --+--+--.....",...q.--+---1 I'-;:p IJ v / /....,~ ~l '~ 1/ / I ~~ ~ IJJ~ I ~ 7 ~ v U ~ /" r t / Figure 11. Figure 12.
  • 14. 107 I / / J Figure 12. I 1 il " r-, / / rF I~ ' ~ "..::::::--r;;-/ -------­ ~ ~ ~ :l ~ U ­ V ~ 1 (,.. ~~ ~ . r--r'~ /M ; "" I J ur­ ~,-+--+--+----+t-+-"'--tf'~ / ~ ~ I (n 1 I~J)'. ~ ~~.~ ~ I f/r/ I /1= I~ i'...: ~ / / ......r--., SCIENCE AND ARTELER
  • 15. : 108 DAVID FIDELER The Meaning of the Composition This particular bas relief, controlled by the geometrical forming principle ofcP, is not a unique occurrence; it is a specific instance of a widespread practice and tradition which has rarely been studied by professional Egyptologists. In very ancient times, the scribes, artists, priests, and temple architects were trained about the nature of geometrical forming principles, which they applied to their work. Considering the fact that such training is not readily available, it is no wonder that the old tradition is in most respects unknown to contem­ porary archaeologists. The bas relief we have examined, dating back some 3,300 years, is clearly structured on the accepted canon of 19 squares. However, the 19-square grid is not a true canon ofproportion, but a canonical rule of thumb that was used in Egyptian art. True proportion involves the use of ratio, and one of the most dynamic ratios is the Golden Section, reflected in the process ofunfolding life. Students ofgeometry draw a distinction between the principles ofstatic and dynamic symmetry.5 The square grid is useful but static; the phi grid is dynamic and brings the piece to life. In this composition, a window opens onto the true nature of the ancient proportional canon and its employment in the science of animatingstatues. The square grid represents the body or raw materia of the composition; the phi ratio is the animating principle which brings it to life. In the same way that the universe is a harmonic union ofspirit and matter, so too did the Egyptians reflect this understand­ ing in their temple art. Aswe can see in Figure 12, the phi geometry seems to emanate from the ankh, the symbol oflife, this is reinforced by the emanating lines on the pharaoh's ritual apron. From this we conclude that the Egyptians consciously understood the relationship between the phi ratio and the patterns of unfolding life. Ancient art, at its highest, embodied scientific realizations and reflected a far more inclusive world-view than most individuals can imagine in the contemporary world. There is also a magical dimen­ sion to the old viewwhich transcends reductionistic description. The SCIEN CE AND ART entire culture of ancient Egypt, for exar the temple and the invocation of thegc symbolic role within the frameworkofE was seen asthe personification oftheIdea image of God. In the words of the Hem the man who, in virtue of the Mindtl is akin to the gods, has attached hirns becomes like the gods .. . It is for reasons such as these,Asdel an animal worthy of our worshipand attributes of a god, as though he hims In our bas relief, a god gazesinto theeye ( the god. The god welcomes the mortal" The pharaoh has become agodandismor are thus reciprocally entwined, mirrorin images ofone life.This reciprocityberwe worlds-the interpenetration ofspiritani depicted the gods in human form. AsHei tal becomes mortal, the mortal irnmorts death and dying in the other's life." True art is always rooted in asacred vis divine role ofhumanity asthe livingims] the phenomenon ofhumanity that consc terious Light of Nature, becomes cog meaning. Thus, in the traditionalview, ht pivot of an alchemical drama which is00 Through creativity, harmony, and an, spirit. Man thereby affirms his essential and life, and as the ultimate mediator be sites.
  • 16. 109LER ling ofa Iby ists, , of irk, ;no ~m- 5, IS the eof use ton, raw ry.' lngs the e of llon md­ etry Ted .we ship and can len­ The SCIENCE A1'<"'D ART entire culture of ancient Egypt, for example, was structured around the temple and the invocation of the gods. The pharaoh fulfilled a symbolic role within the framework ofEgyptian cultural alchemy; he was seen asthe personification ofthe Ideal Man, humanity made in the image of God. In the words of the Hermetic tractate, the man who, in virtue of the Mind that is in him , through which he is akin to the gods, has attached himself to them by pious devotion, becomes like the gods ... It is for reasons such as these, Asclepius, man is a mighty wonder­ an animal worthy of our worship and our respect. Man takes on the attributes of a god, as though he himself were a god ...6 In our bas relief, a god gazes into the eye ofa mortal; the mortal meets the god. The god welcomes the mortal with a gesture of acceptance. The pharaoh has become agod and ismortal no more. God and mortal are thus reciprocally entwined, mirror images ofone another, mirror images of one life. This reciprocity between the divine and the human worlds- the interpenetration of spirit and matter-is why the Greeks depicted the gods in human form. AsHeraclitus wrote, "The immor­ tal becomes mortal, the mortal immortal, each living in the other's death and dying in the other's life." True art is always rooted in a sacred vision of life which affirms the divine role ofhumanity as the living image ofGod. It is only through the phenomenon of humanity that consciousness or Mind, the mys­ terious Light of Nature, becomes cognizant of its existence and meaning.Thus, in the traditional view, humanity is seen as the central pivot of an alchemical drama which is occurring on a universal scale. T hrough creativity, harmony, and art, matter is transformed into spirit. Man thereby affirms his essential nature as a creature of light and life, and as the ultimate mediator between all perceivable oppo­ sites.
  • 17. 110 DAVID FID ELER Notes 1. Asclepius 38 2. Asclepius 3t. 3. See, for example,her article "Proportions ofKorai,"AmericanJournalof Archaeology 85 (1981), 3, 269-80. 4. Erik Iversen,CanonandProportionsinEgyptianArt. Second edition, fully revisedin collaboration with YoshiakiShibata (Warminster:Aris and Phillips, 19i5). 5. For examples ofdynamic symmetry seeJay Hambridge, The Elementsof DynamicSymmetry (New York: Dover, 196i)jMatil a Ghyk, The Geometry of Art and Life (New York: Dover, 19ii); Jay Hambridge, DynamicSymmetry: The GreekVase (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920). For an excellent introduction to geometrical forming principles,which contains a remarkable analysis ofthe phi ratio as the basis of an Egyptian Osiris temple, see Robert Lawlor, SacredGeometry: Phi/osop~andPractice(London:T hames & Hudson, 1982). For more on phi, see H. E. Huntley, The Divine Proportion:A Study in MathematicalBeauty (New York: Dover, 19iO). 6. Asclepius 5-6 "Matrix ofe Drawingwith compass III

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