Laurent De La Hyre, “Allegory of Arithmetic” (1650)

Laurent De La Hyre, "Allegory of Arithmetic" (1650)

De La Hyre’s baroque allegory presents Arithmetic as a young woman holding an elusive volume titled “PYTHAGORAS”, alluding to the Pythagoreans “who were the first to take up Mathematics, and not only advanced this subject, but saturated with it and fancied that the principles of Mathematics were the principles of all things” (Aristotle, “Metaphysics”). The woman points upon a sheet of paper where examples of the art and craft of Arithmetic are displayed. The elementary operations of addition (4913+2567=7480), subtraction (5968-3257=2711) and multiplication (37995×27=1025865) are presented in columnar manner and nine non zero digits of the base 10 numerical system are listed. Numbers 10, 11 and 12 allude to the positional character of the decimal system while the parity of numbers is hinted upon by the words PAR (even number) and IMPAR (odd number).


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