Mona Lisa and the Golden Rectangle

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The ancient Greeks thought that the most pleasing proportions for a rectangle were those in which the rectangle's sides were in the ratio of about 1.618 to 1. This number is called the golden section or golden ratio and a rectangle with those proportions is called a golden rectangle.


Leonardo da Vinci referred to the golden ratio as the "divine proportion". There are several features of his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, to which a golden rectangle can be fitted. See how many of these you can find by varying the orientation, position, and size of the rectangle.


Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


Snapshot 1: Mona Lisa's face can be neatly enclosed by a golden rectangle

Snapshot 2: so can her Roman nose; you can also fit smaller horizontal rectangles to her eyes and mouth

Snapshot 3: finally, the frame of the entire painting is near the divine proportion


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