Is it just for a lack of documentations, witnesses and historical attestations, if the attributive question of the enigmatic “Luca Pacioli’s Portrait” ( Gallery of Museum of Capodimonte, Naples) – depicting Luca Pacioli, the friar and Mathemathic Author of “Summa de Arithmetica” and of the “Divina Proportione”- is still unsolved?
The available documentations doesn’t give any specifical information about the execution or the original assignment of the Portrait.
The first documental information are from a century later of the presumable execution of the Portrait, and they dated back to a 1631’s inventory, however without any explanation about the date and the way of accession in Urbino, at Palazzo Ducale.
The Portrait was included in a list of goods of Della Rovere’s dinasty. This first inventory reports just mere hypotesis and even the sudden documentations stopped just reporting the movements of the Portrait, during the half of the XVII century, from Urbino to Florence and from the Urbino’s dinasty to the Medici dynasty, by Vittoria della Rovere-Medici.
Traces of the Portrait appear again in the later centuries in Naples, still in Medici’s belongings, collateral branch of Ottaviano. These traces will then take to its actual musuem position after the state pre-emption against the foreign selling of the Portrait.
The historical tradition is silent about the actual and generic attribution (based on a signature), is referred to uncertain interpretations on the acronym indication relieved from the anomal “cartiglio” presented in the Portrait.
The historical and critical research haven’t yet found an incentive either progress, even though there have been critics on the original past given hypotesis.
After an initial solicitation due to the acquisition of the Portrait by musuem of Capodimonte, despite other periodical examinations, the solution of the question is still at the same point without any new substantial or critically resolutive documentations. There haven’t been either different indications on new elements about the Pacioli’s Portrait, for opening again other ways of processing investigations. The attributive research is at a stop, after the progressive exhaution of possible interpretations detectable from the picture’s clues.
Considering the elevated pictorial and artistic quality of the Portrait, the intensification in exposing the picture, the deep spread of the image through photos – even as icon on editorial work’s covers, the lack of recent studies assumes a characterisation and a meaning of a proper real implicite disistance on the investigations.
The obstacle for the researches is found in the misleading abbreviation and inscription: "IACO.BAR. VIGENNIS. P. 1495", apparent marking and ineludibile and unsolved cryptography, made still more ambiguous by the representation of a fly.
The interpretation of the misunderstood “cartiglio” and its inscriptions and abbreviations, influenced the research of the Portrait from the beginning, taking on a different way the perspectives and the historical directions in order to find the author of the work.
Either the omission of a deepened hermeneutic of the painting and the preference given to the only stylistic analysis, had clasped the research field neglecting other needed ways of critical investigation.
The question has been then left to an occasional solution, to a mere and eventual archivistical solving, that hasn’t been reached yet.
Based on this anomaly, even caused by the absence of historical quotations and tradition, had also influenced the reductive effect by the anonymous and reserved maintenance at the Urbino Palazzo Ducale and the next following owners of the Portrait.
The portrait has been considered for its documentary and historical value rather than its artistic importance. This judgment is not adequated considering the contents and the aestethical qualities expressed in the picture.
The work, even though substantially misunderstood, has reached prestige and fame, even without a clamour of a fair paternity.




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Nick Mackinnon, The Mathematical Gazette, n. 77, 1993, pag. 143

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“The highlight of the portrait is the rhombicuboctahedron. And here we surely see the ineffable left hand of Leonardo da Vinci, who drew the superb picture for De divina proportione, which, moreover, hang from a string in the originals. Pacioli left Venice for Milan in 1496 and was then with Leonardo for two years, during which time the illustrations for De divina proportione were made. Furthermore, Pacioli says in De divina proportione that a collection of crystal polyhedra is to be found in Milan. The rhombicuboctahedron could not be executed more exactly, and furthermore the artist has complicated the task by showing it half full of water and showing the consequent reflections and refractions. By contrast the (easier to depict) dodecahedron is at best a workmanlike job.”

Geofroy Tory, “Champ Fleury”, 1529, Le Segond Livre, Feuil XIII

(treatise of "art and science of the due and true proportion of the Attic letters,
otherwise named Ancient letters and vulgarly Roman letters,
proportionated according to the body and the human face")

« Frere Lucas Paciol du Bourg sanct sepulchre, de lorde des freres mineurs et Theologien, qui a faict en vulgar Italien vng livre intitule, Divina proportione, & qui a volu figurer le dictes lettres Attiques, nen a point aussi parle, ne baille raison: & ie ne men esbahis point, car iay entendu par aulcuns Italiens quil a desrobe ses dicte lettres, & prinses de feu Messire Leonarde Vince, qui est trespasse a Amboise, & estoit tres excellent Philosophe & admirable painctre, & quasi vng aultre Archimedes. Ce dicte frere Lucas a faict imprimer ses lettres Attiques comme sienne. »

“Fra’ Luca Pacioli from Borgo San Sepolcro, monk of the order of the Grey Friars and theologian, who wrote in Italian vernacular a book entitled “Divina proportione” and has intended to represent the aforesaid Attic letters, did not describe them at all, neither gave any explanation about; and I am not surprised at all about this, because I’ve heard from some Italian people that he had taken the letters away from the late Mr. Leonardo Vinci,who’s dead in Amboise and was a very excellent philosopher and admirable painter and almost another Archimedes. This told fra' Luca made print those letters as his owns.”







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