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In the late middle ages, a new arithmetic followed the spice trade from India to Italy on Arab ships. It brought place value, simplified calculation, and the digits we recognize as our own. These were the type of numbers Gutenberg needed for his press. These are the numbers that Leonardo learned in his apprenticeship with Verrocchio.
We call Leonardo a polymath, a synonym for Renaissance Man, derived from the same base (knowing) that gives us the word mathematics. Leonardo loved the certainty of mathematics. He studied with Friar Luca Pacioli, an esteemed theoretician who began his training in merchant math. Leonardo threw himself into the classical problems of Fibonacci and Archimedes. There is no science without mathematics, Leonardo proclaimed. Yet he was seduced by the ideal, and perhaps subjective, forms of proportion, harmony and cosmic symmetry. Which has caused art historians to dissect Mona Lisa’s smile with a compass and ample exegesis or to spot microscopic numbers mischievously coded in her eye.
That’s the Challenge: pick a number*. Pick any number whose form or material or meaning appeals to you. Elaborate the number (you may recall this pastime from elementary school). Add, subtract, multiply or divide the number with your methods and media. Search for the prime, the pure, the constant. Or unveil the mystical, the mirth or the magic in numbers.
* Our CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) Machine has produced a myriad of Baltic Birch numerals in the Old Style found in Leonardo’s Notebooks. Different sizes are available.
Leonardo daVinci painted with unrivaled vision, explored science with modern logic, and invented with pure imagination. The Leonardo Challenge celebrates one of his inventions: improvisational creativity. One hundred artists, designers, and playful spirits will transform a common object – this year: numbers – with wit, whimsy and artistry.
The April 26th Benefit will revel in those artists’ creativity. Through their generosity, and yours, the evening will support workshops and outreach for a new generation of Leonardos.