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Revelatory geometries : the treatises of Albrecht Dürer

McGill University
Publication Date
  • Dürer
  • Albrecht
  • 1471-1528.
  • Mathematics


The treatises of the German artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) reveal the first instances of modern means of architectural representation. These works, the Underweysung der Messung (1525) and the Vier Bucher von Menschlicher Proportion (1528), employ an unprecedented degree of graphic projection to render visual various geometrical and architectural figures. Nevertheless, Durer's obsessive interest in geometry and visualisation is not necessarily expressive of a strictly modern intentionality. Although his treatises have some continuity with the reductive techniques of contemporary practice, they were formulated in a traditional world and manifest many of its concerns. This thesis elucidates the interplay between these aspects of Durer's mathematical corpus. It proceeds by articulating both the traditional underpinnings of his work and his patent struggles with its modern implications. By revealing the original density of meaning inherent in modern means of architectural representation, this study questions the contemporary prejudice that such means are merely neutral instruments.

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