3rd July – 15th December 1995
Central to the picture and crucial to all the activity it presents is the instrument maker. This is unusual. Except as the subject of an individual portrait, generally shown holding a pair of compasses, the instrument maker is scarcely ever seen. In allegorical accounts of mathematics his instruments are taken for granted and their production unacknowledged. Here, by contrast, the maker occupies centre stage as he bends to the classic operation of practical mathematics – using the compasses (‘dividers’ in modern terminology) to scribe what are probably projected lines on a plane surface, perhaps in this case the plate of a sundial. A rule or a square lies across his lap, a small rule is held in his belt and a small pair of compasses is stuck in his hat.
Practical mathematics and its application in Renaissance Europe.