De la Hire’s Geometry

Allegory of the Geometry
Laurent de la Hire

De la Hire also painted the allegories of the Geometry and the Astronomy. The Geometry is  a young woman with a paper in her left hand in which we can see some geometrical constructions as the famous Euclid’s demonstration of the theorem of Pythagoras:

Detail of the painting

In her left hand, she also holds a right angle edge and a compass. We can also see that there is a sphinx and an Egyptian background in the right which represents the Egyptian origin of the Geometry. Proclus stated that:

Since, then, we have to consider the beginnings of the arts and sciences with reference to the particular cycle [of the series postulated by Aristotle] through which the universe is at present passing, we say that, according to most accounts, geometry was first discovered in Egypt, having had its origin in the measurement of areas. For this was a necessity for the Egyptians owing to the rising of the Nile which effaced the proper boundaries of everybody’s lands.

Herodotus says that Ramses II distributed the land among the Egyptians in equal rectangular plots on which he levied an annual tax. When therefore the river swept away a portion of a plot and the owner applied for a corresponding reduction in the tax, surveyors had to sent down to certify what the reduction of the area had been.

The Geometry is next to a globe which nods to the science devoted o measuring the Earth (Geo + metry = Earth + measurement). There is also a snake representing the ancient goddess of the Earth.

Location: The Toledo Art Museum (map)

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