User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Clone of Geometry Through Art

  • Ancient American Art

  • Mantle fragment

    Slide Notes

    This Burial Mantle was only one portion of the vast amount of fabric forming a "mummy bundle." Although the fabric is almost 2,000 years old, it is very much intact, preserved by the dry desert sands of coastal Peru. Like the funeral arts of other ancient cultures, the craftsmanship in the Burial Mantle is a testimony to the status of the deceased person. 

    - What kind of patterns can be made out on this textile? How are shapes and colors used to create a visual rhythm?

    - Why would a textile like this be used in the burial of a mummy? What does it say about the people who produced this textile, as well as the deceased person who was buried with it?

    Details

    Mantle fragment

    A.D. 1000–1476

    Dimensions

    209 x 133 cm (82 5/16 x 52 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Wool and cotton brocaded plain weave with spaced warps and wefts, supplemental threads wrapped around woven squares; weft-faced plain weave with supplemental weft patterning (lower border); tapestry (side borders); layered fringe

    Classification

    Costumes

    Accession Number

    1980.211

    Collections
    Textiles and Fashion Arts More Info

    Description

    Cotton warp, wool weft. Two panels of open-space fabric sewn together. Field: 13 rows of 13-16 rectangles, each with brocaded profile of "moon animal" motif: zoomorphic figure with headdress, resembling monkey; warp threads from each triangle divert to two rectangles both above and below. Colors: yellow, red, white, olive, brown. Edges: (a) Top: 1/2" warp-pattern band with birds (red, white); (b) Sides: 1/2" weft-faced tape (red); (c) Bottom: 6" band of weft-faced weaving and brocading with 14 monkeys and small birds (with applied fringe).

    Multimedia

  • Codex-style plate

    Slide Notes

    Codex-style plate depicting the resurrection of the Maize god emerging from the earth symbolized by a turtle carapace. His sons the Hero Twins aid in his emergence from the underworld. The hieroglyphic texts include the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS), which has been discovered to be a phonetic writing system, ending with the name of its owner/patron Titomaj K'awil, the son of Yopaat Bahlam, ruler of the Chatahn place (an as-yet unidentified major center in the Mirador Basin, speculated to be the archaeological site of El Tintal). Short nominal phrases within the scene name the Maize god (Hun Ajaw Its'amnaj, or "One Maize Crocodile Tree") and the Hero Twins (Hun Ajaw and Yax Balam).

    - What is significant about the plate being decorated with a representation of the Maize god? The name of the object's patron? 

    - What effect does the circular plate create in framing the composition? What geometric patterns emerge in the composition itself?

    Details

    Codex-style plate

    A.D. 680–750

    Dimensions

    5.8 x 32 cm (2 5/16 x 12 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Earthenware: red and black on cream slip paint

    Classification

    Ceramics, Pottery, Earthenware

    Accession Number

    1993.565

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Ancient Central America Gallery - LG32 More Info

    Description

    Codex-style plate depicting the resurrection of the Maize god emerging from the earth symbolized by a turtle carapace. His sons the Hero Twins aid in his emergence from the underworld. The hieroglyphic texts include the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS), ending with the name of its owner/patron Titomaj K'awil, the son of Yopaat Bahlam, ruler of the Chatahn place (an as-yet unidentified major center in the Mirador Basin, speculated to be the archaeological site of El Tintal). Short nominal phrases within the scene name the Maize god (Hun Ajaw Its'amnaj, or "One Maize Crocodile Tree") and the Hero Twins (Hun Ajaw and Yax Balam).

    Multimedia

  • Korean Art

  • Miniature Pagoda

    Slide Notes

    The pagoda, a tiered tower from East Asian architectural traditions, was developed from the stupa, a mound-like building used to house relics for practioners of the Buddhist religion. A little over a foot tall, this bronze miniature representation is could evoke a more intimate experience for the viewer in contrast to a monumental pagoda. 

    - Why represent such a monumental form of architecture in a small scale? Where could this bronze work have been placed? 

    - What sort of shapes are used in the miniature work? How do they change from the base, to the tower, to the spire at the very top?

    - What may a viewer feel when observing the effect of this work's shapes and patterns? Why an emphasis on a upwards vertical motion?

    Details

    Miniature pagoda

    12th-13th century

    Dimensions

    H. 39.2 cm (15 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Bronze

    Classification

    Metalwork

    Accession Number

    1970.344

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    Korea-USA Cent Prog Cmt Gallery (Korean Art) - 179 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Belt Ornaments

    Slide Notes

    This is a silver belt with several pendants of varying shapes and lengths that could be attached. 

    - Why is it important to know that this belt was made of silver? Who could it have been made for?

    - What sort of geometric patterns are used for the belt and the pendants? Could the pendants have all been worn on the belt at once? Would they have been worn on different occasions?

    - This image shows all of the items laid out across a flat surface. How would the belt, and pendants, look when worn across one's waist?

    Details

    Belt with pendants

    5th–6th century A.D.

    Dimensions

    Length Belt Hook: 7.6 cm (3.0 in.), Length Belt, Plaque: 6.0 cm (2 3/8 in.), Length Belt-end Ornament: 12.5 cm (4 15/16 in.), Maximum Length Waist Pendant: 68.0 cm (16 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Silver

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment

    Accession Number

    68.45.1-35

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    Korea-USA Cent Prog Cmt Gallery (Korean Art) - 179 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Islamic Art

  • Tile Panel Depicting the Gateway...

    Slide Notes

    The inscription under the central arch declares, "Glory to God," and, at top and bottom, names God, the Prophet Muhammad, and the first four caliphs: Abu Bkr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Representations of Muhammad and other figures have typically been forbidden in the production of Islamic art, resulting in compositions that make use of abstract deisgns and Arabic calligraphy. 

    - How is geometry used to create the "gates" of the image? The vegetation? The frames of the composition?

    - Where is Arabic calligraphy placed in the composition? What is significant about such placement?

    Details

    Tile Panel Depicting the Gateway to Paradise

    about 1600

    Dimensions

    Overall: 71.8 x 70.2 cm (28 1/4 x 27 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Colors on white slip on white silicaceous ceramic body, covered with clear glaze. Composite body (quartz, clay and glaze frit).

    Classification

    Ceramics

    Accession Number

    90.162

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    Islamic Gallery - 175 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Plate

    Slide Notes

    What sort of figure can you make out at the center of the plate? What kind of shapes and patterns are used to frame this figure? Can you guess what kind of objects these patterns create around the central figure?

    Details

    Plate

    10–11th century

    Dimensions

    Diam: 28.5 cm (11 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Glazed earthenware, engobe covered and slip painted

    Classification

    Ceramics, Pottery, Earthenware

    Accession Number

    69.950

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    Islamic Gallery - 175 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • American Art

  • Desk and bookcase

    Slide Notes

    This imposing, bombé (swelled base) desk-and-bookcase represents the pinnacle of the Rococo style in Boston. From its massive, claw-and-ball feet to the eagle finial at the top, the piece is embellished with costly carving that represents a level of lavish ornamentation not ordinarily seen on Boston furniture. Bright, known as "the neatest workman in town," signed his masterpiece on one of its drawers. He made it for Boston's Judge Samuel Barrett as a wedding present to Barrett's daughter Ann.

    - How is geometry, and pattern, used to differentiate the "levels" of this cabinet? To mark where drawers can be opened?

    - How can you figure out where the desk-top is pulled out of the bookcase?

    Details

    Desk and bookcase

    About 1770–85

    George Bright, American, 1726–1805

    Dimensions

    252.7 x 109.2 x 61 cm (99 1/2 x 43 x 24 in.)

    Medium

    Mahogany, white pine, glass

    Classification

    Furniture, Case Furniture and Boxes

    Accession Number

    56.1194

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Lynch Gallery (Colonial Boston) - 132 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Joseph Moore and His Family

    Slide Notes

    This portrait of Erastus Field’s neighbors, Joseph Moore and his family, was the largest and most complex he ever painted. Moore and his wife, Almira Gallond Moore, are shown nearly life-size, seated in gaily painted Hitchcock chairs and surrounded by attentive children—their two sons at right and their recently orphaned niece and nephew at left. Like many folk painters, Field combined careful attention to detail (scrupulously recording Moore’s birthmark, for example, and the ornate pattern of Mrs. Moore’s collar) with attractive eccentricities of composition and drawing. The figures and the features of the room are stringently balanced. 

    - The emphasis of this painting is on the group of people, but the deisgn of the room plays an important role in their composition; how are geometric shapes used to frame, or highlight people? Divide people?

    - Geometric patterns aren't only present in the design of the room, and carpet, it is also present in the clothes worn by the family; what sort of shapes and patterns can you find in their clothing?

     

    Details

    Joseph Moore and His Family

    about 1839

    Erastus Salisbury Field, American, 1805–1900

    Dimensions

    209.23 x 237.17 cm (82 3/8 x 93 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.25

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Linde Gallery (Am. Folk Art) - 237 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Classical Art

  • Lenos (vat-shaped) sarcophagus

    Slide Notes

    Sacrophagi served as tombs for wealthy patrons in Roman society, and could feature sculptural reliefs like the ones present in this example. The exercises of trainers (detailed in the reliefs at each side) with goads and unharnessed African lions are shown in the theatric undercutting, flattening, and distortions of the Late Antique sculpture, in which the death throes of the quadruped victims are made to seem like part of a forceful yet distorted ballet. The trainers wear mantles over their tunic and carry goads or spears. The technique of leaving sections of marble between the animals' fur, known as "bridging" is a special sign of classical carving on the threshhold of the Late Antique world. The front, the curved ends, and the start of the fallaway toward the bottom are preserved, in pieces. 

    - What visual effect is created by the abstract pattern seen in the center of this angle of the sarcophagus? In what ways does it guide the eye toward the center, or to the sides of the sarcophagus wtih the figural reliefs?

    Details

    Lenos (vat-shaped) sarcophagus

    A.D. 260–270

    Dimensions

    Overall: 77.5 x 208cm (30 1/2 x 81 7/8in.) Case (Rolling steel pedestal with wooden skirts): 77.5 x 228.6 x 78.1 cm (30 1/2 x 90 x 30 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Coffins, Sarcophagi

    Accession Number

    1975.359

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Classical Roman Gallery - 213 More Info

    Description

    The exercises of trainers with goads and unharnessed African lions are shown in the theatric undercutting, flattening, and distortions of the Late Antique sculpture, in which the death throes of the quadruped victims are made to seem like part of a forceful yet distorted ballet. The trainers wear mantles over their tunic and carry goads or spears. The technique of leaving sections of marble between the animals' fur, known as "bridging" is a special sign of classical carving on the threshhold of the Late Antique world. The front, the curved ends, and the start of the fallaway toward the bottom are preserved, in pieces. Otherwise, there are dents in the egg-and-dart molding of the rim, abrasions in the strigilar carving radiating from the tiny amphora in the upper center, and slight damage to animals (horn of the gazelle) and trainers (noses). Scientific Analysis: Harvard Lab No. HI741: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.01 / delta18O -6.79, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - Fine grained marble.

    Multimedia

  • Architectural panel with a griffin

    Slide Notes

    An eagle-griffin stands with one paw raised, probably beside a candelabrum. His tail turns into a rich acanthus vine, which sends out a lateral shoot and terminates in a cluster of leaves. The frame consists (from inside out) of an astragal, a row of acanthus leaves with intervening leaf tongues, a Lesbian cymation, and an astragal. The panel has been cut off vertically at the left end; the upper left-hand corner is broken off, and a piece has been cut out of the border at the top.

    - How many borders is the frame comprised of? How can you tell the borders from one another?

    - Of the content framed by the borders, how is geometry used to differentiate the two main subjects of the composition?

    Details

    Architectural panel with a griffin

    about A.D. 175–200

    Dimensions

    Height x length: 104 x 137.8 cm (40 15/16 x 54 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, probably from the from the island of Proconnesus in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul

    Classification

    Architectural elements

    Accession Number

    03.748

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Classical Roman Gallery - 213 More Info

    Description

    This relief and 03.747, which presented griffins confronting one another on either side of a central element, would have had sacred protective connotations. The reliefs could well have formed part of the decoration of a temple, but it is also possible that they embellished a large funerary structure or a secular public building, such as a basilica or market hall. An eagle-griffin stands with one paw raised, probably beside a candelabrum. His tail turns into a rich acanthus vine, which sends out a lateral shoot and terminates in a cluster of leaves. The frame consists (from inside out) of an astragal, a row of acanthus leaves with intervening leaf tongues, a Lesbian cymation, and an astragal. The panel has been cut off vertically at the left end; the upper left-hand corner is broken off, and a piece has been cut out of the border at the top.

    Multimedia