Saturday, February 24, 2018

Art and Science

Whenever the name Leonardo da Vinci is mentioned, we hear the statement that he was at once an artist and scientist.  The statement is certainly not untrue; but the expression is anachronistic.  Simply put, art was in his days science, and science was art.  Both concerned the accurate visual inspection of nature, as I wrote earlier, viz., Leonardo's Eye.  The distinction between art and science is a concept developed later in the 17th century. Even Newton’s discovery of gravity wa, at least anecdotally, his bodily experience of a falling apple striking his head.  

In the seminal study by James Ackerman, my lifelong mentor, he discusses the dictum Ars Sine Scientia Nihil Est, attributed to the French architect, Jean Migno, consulted in 1399 by the builders of the Milan Cathedral planned in the Gothhic style then unfamiliar to Italians. Although the statement may appear to mean that art of building  or architecture is naught without the technical knowledge, i.e., engineering, in the diction of the time and the context of the statement, it meant something close to the reverse.  It meant that the skillful craft of physically constructing a building is incomplete without the understanding of the geometrical order as its intellectual basis and manifested in the design.   


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