Science of Movement in Painting Masterpieces

Science of Movement in Painting Masterpieces

Alain Belli

Alain Belli "Science of Movement in Painting Masterpieces" Published in International Journal of Trend in Research and Development (IJTRD), ISSN: 2394-9333, Conference Proceeding | IPMESS-19 , June 2019, URL:

Introduction. Sciences and arts are often considered as different domains that could not be connected in teaching activities. For instance, painting masterpieces are highly regarded from pictorial and art movement point of view, but not for their significance in physics and particularly in science of movement. The aim of this study was then to analyse four different painting masterpieces through both science of movement and the art movements.Methods. Two paintingswere examined for their relevance in kinetics, “A man lifting a sake barrel” (circa 1804-1818) by Katsushika Hokusai and “The athlete” (1930) by Camille Bombois that shows a lifter with dumbbells raised above the head. The weights of the sake barrel in Hokusai’s painting and of iron dumbbell in Bombois’s painting were estimated from their dimensions and the density of respectively sake and iron. These weights were then compared to the possible lifting capabilities of adult man. Two other paintings were examined for their relevance in kinematics and balance capabilities, “The circus” by Georges Seurat that shows an acrobat standing on a horse running in a circle track of a circus and “The birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli that shows “Venus” standing on a shell that is floating on the sea.Results. According to their sizes and density, the weights of the sake barrel in Hokusai’s painting and of the iron dumbbells in Bombois’s painting were estimated to respectively 105 kg and 714 kg. In Seurat’s painting the body of the acrobat makes an angle of 30° with the vertical direction. Assuming that the radius of a standard circus track was about 13 m, the velocity of the horse should be 19 km/h in order to maintain the balance of the acrobat. In Botticelli’s painting, the centre of mass of the body of Venus is clearly not vertically aligned with the support foot and Venus is not well balanced and just falling.Discussion. In Hokusai’s painting the 105 kg of the sake barrel is compatible with the maximal lifting capability of maximum 120 – 150 kg usually reported for adult man, and support the accuracy of the descriptions of daily life claimed by Hokusai in the Edo period. On the contrary the 714 kg of the dumbbells of Bombois’s painting are clearly not realistic but in agreement with the naïve vision (or Primitivism art) of this painter. In Seurat’s painting the acrobat balance is compatible with the possible running velocity of horses in circus, and could be related to the “Pointillism art” developed by Seurat in order to represent the reality from physics laws of light. The Venus is of Botticelli is a typical example of the theoretical beauty painted by this “Renaissance” artist, and it does not have to be real and compatible with anatomy and physics laws.

Paintings Masterpieces; Biomechanics; Movement

Conference Proceeding | IPMESS-19 , June 2019


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