“Bounds wherein the Good and the Beautiful consist”

Artists and architects from the Ancient period of the journey undertaken by mankind, most surely exemplifies a fascination with the existence and the coexistence of science and art or the coexistence of “good and the beautiful” within the creative enterprise of our ancient ancestors.  Let us turn our gaze toward the magnificent City of Rome and the equally magnificent monument the Romans called The Pantheon.  Charles Alphonse Dufresnoy, in his seminal The Art of Painting (1641-65), offers the following insight into the desired duality of combining the formal elements of “Good with the Beautiful” in the following passage:  “Science perfects genius, and also moderates that fury of the fancy which cannot contain itself within the bounds of reason, but often carries a man into dangerous extremes.  For there is a mean in all things, and certain limits or bounds wherein the Good and the Beautiful consist, and out of which they never can depart.”

What are your thoughts on the aesthetic challenge of combining a square to a circle, elements of the Sacred Geometry our ancient ancestors labored over for generations of time, in such significant architectural commission as the Roman Pantheon?  Do you believe or see the existence of “bounds of reason” governing the aesthetic choices made by the artisans of the gifted class?

Roman Pantheon

Roman Pantheon—Interior and Coffered Ceiling with Oculus

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

17 Comments

17 thoughts on ““Bounds wherein the Good and the Beautiful consist””

  1. And for this discussion I believe that traditional Roman architecture progressively shaped new innovative creations for many years after. Not only was the Colosseum a fascination that commiserated with Roman aesthetic and improvisation, the Pantheon was one landmark that Romans also wanted to be credited for . Since its conception, the importance of formality, shape, and structure was all commonly known to be an integral part of modernized architecture. The fact that the Romans achieved such a feat regardless of the geometry and unorthodox methods of building it, lends us tools for thinking out of the box. Science does give us reason for boundaries, but much like how that is understood, art can also give meaning to the world that can leave us with wonder.

    Like

  2. Regarding the aesthetic challenge of combining square and circle elements of sacred geometry – I believe that the Roman Pantheon achieves this more successfully internally than externally. I haven’t yet visited the Pantheon but I can imagine the breathtaking nature of the moment one first enters that large domed interior space. For me, the plain grey exterior of the barrel plays the role of “the good” (science), holding within its bounds “the beautiful” (the exquisite coffered ceiling and colored marble interior décor). Classical notions of beauty do seem to be bound within limits and scientific laws definitely play a role in which architectural forms survive for thousands of years. Following the “bounds of reason” has kept the Pantheon solid and still standing two millennia later so the Romans did well to limit their external design to these bounds. Conversely, one could argue that the Romans pushed the “bounds of reason” with the creation of the cement dome of the Pantheon – today’s architects and engineers could not recreate this – so the Romans, in a sense, were stepping outside of our present “bounds of reason.”

    Like

  3. I believe it to be very interesting that the ancient Romans thought to combine a square and a circle in the same building because it seems unexpected to want to combing two different shapes, especially for such a large building. It would have been easier to create a simple building shape and then embellish the building with sculpture, but such care was put into making a creative base building that would surprise visitors once they stepped into it. The “bounds of reason” are easily illustrated in the creation of the Pantheon. Science and math may not feel like much in words, but when created in such a large scale the difficulty and beauty of “perfect spheres” and “squares combined with a circle” can be seen. The inside of the Pantheon demonstrates to the public who steps in how voluminous a sphere is and how beautiful a perfect circle is with the oculus. This said, as stated in the quote, the knowledge of these bounds truly did push the architects “into dangerous extremes” because they decided to create these grand structures with just concrete, a feat that is still impossible to recreate.

    Like

  4. I believe that the pantheon is a good example of how the Romans consistently found a way to balance science and beauty. They found a way to show that they placed and equal amount of value on both the sciences (math, astronomy, etc.) and things of beauty. They took extreme care in making sure the structure was not too much of any one element, and that one didn’t overpower the other. The square section of the building is just as beautifully decorated as the inner circular section of the building. Even the dimness of the interior is balance out with the light that floods in through the oculus at the top of the dome. This building made it clear that the Romans were gifted in both the arts and science.

    Like

  5. As you discussed the Pantheon my heart melted into a puddle. The beauty of this building is so fascinating. The romans are known for their structure stability. They are also known for combining the “good with the beautiful.” The good aspect thinking about how to make this structure sound and one that can last throughout lifetimes. The beautiful aspect being one that could move individuals to pray to the gods through the open ceiling of the pantheon. In my opinion, I completely agree with why they chose to create the pantheon in this fashion. In most cases I am not easily swayed to favor architecture. In this case I am completely won over.

    Like

  6. Although the Greeks and Egyptians were architectural masters of their own, the Romans appropriated and perfected architectural elements and artistic practices in ways that those cultures could not. The Roman Pantheon and even the Colosseum are a testament to that. You get a sense of the relationship between science, math and art in Roman architecture, but is even more fascinating upon further research. their execution of carefully calculated equations and plans is impeccable.

    Like

  7. Sacred Geometry is something that can be found in nature and its influence can be well recognized into the ancient past. To bring something like sacred geometry into the architecture of the building, I think, shows the appreciation for the world and higher beings. It is found in religions, cosmology, math, music, etc. They could have made any type of building drawing from any influence but they chose to base it off of the ideas from Sacred Geometry. I think that creating a building with these parameters does not limit the artisans to a bound of reason aesthetically. I believe these bounds were met as a new opportunity to be innovative with what is commonly already known, that being common shapes like squares and circles. These architects were not trying to think outside the box, instead they rethought what was considered the box and created a monument that gives a completely new experience.

    Like

  8. It is certainly an interesting combination. From a layman’s perspective, the two shapes must have nothing to do with each other. Speaking from the point of view of a mathematician, the study of the circle and square (and other shapes) formed the basis of all of mathematics. The Greeks helped put mathematics on a rigorous foothold through the study of geometry. Considering the Romans took inspiration from the Greeks, it does not surprise me that the Romans experimented with combining a circle and a square, especially for an iconic building such as the Pantheon.
    As for the “bounds of reason,” there is a certain symmetry, or balance, among the art of the ancients. Each work of art, at least in ancient Greece and Rome, retains its internal logic. There is nothing too fanciful or unrealistic, and if it does push the boundaries of realism, it maintains a sense of authenticity, like it could actually exist in the world. Due to their advanced knowledge of engineering and mathematics, they managed to turn fantastic ideas into buildable objects. Their high level of knowledge combined with their pragmatism, allowed them to create the prominent things that they are most well-known for.

    Like

  9. This amazing building was mostly based on circle shaped. The interior of the building was made with perfectly symmetrical. The Romans used geometric forms to make the circler inferior of building. Although Most buildings don’t have circler opening but the pantheon does. The circler opening is called an oculus. During the day time natural sun light enters the building through the oculus.

    Like

  10. Although, the beauty of this building is extraordinary, it’s well known for its stability of the structure. Interesting to me that the Romans could perfect the architectural practices in ways where other cultures had to master their own architectural practices. They executed and carefully calculated equations and plans with a certain symmetry or balance, executing the art in architecture and mathematical evaluations.

    Like

  11. The square and the circle are essentially perfect shapes, so it is no wonder that the Romans would want to combine the two elements of Sacred Geometry into the architectural design of the Roman Pantheon and other significant works. Like the Greeks before them, the Romans strived for a type of perfection that would be above all, and thus they perfected concrete buildings and decided to take this challenge of combining two shapes. However, the Pantheon is a whole different story since it was unlike any building at the time. The Romans’ ability to combine the two shapes shows their prowess and also shows their dedication to their spiritual and celestial side. Furthermore, by using exact mathematical equations to create the perfect sphere inside the Pantheon and the square as the patio shows the Romans are able to govern within the “bounds of reason.” As Dufresnoy said, “science perfects genius”; so, by using math the Romans were gifted geniuses who merely had the geometry work for them rather than geometry being such a challenge.

    Like

  12. The Pantheon is one example of architectural geniuses that consists beautiful harmony between science and arts. The passage explains the perfect marriage of science and beauty as the field of science is very exact and calculated while beauty or arts sometimes can feel like it can soar to the skies unbound from reason. They are both from very opposing worlds but as they collide into one another, it could create the most pleasing aesthetics. Same as anything in life, too much of one thing can lead to disaster. The architects found the common ground and perfect amount of science and beauty ratio that binds them to this perfection; anything more can disrupt the balance of the two forces. When creating something, trying to balance two shapes can go wrong quickly. Finding the right ratio of the shapes can be challenging at times but everything just falls into its place once you’ve found the right proportions. I can clearly see the “bounds of reason” that surrounds the Pantheon that were decided by the architects. The circular dome is just the right size adjacent to the square entryway and vice versa. If the diameter of the interior is any bigger or smaller, the building would look uneven. As someone who has tried to create something pleasing, I can understand that trying to come up with the perfect formula holds great pressure mentally and emotionally. The creator/s of the Pantheon achieved this and their aesthetic choices will be forever bound within reason and grace.

    Like

  13. Following suit behind the fascinating architecture of the Greeks and Egyptians, the Romans came into play with some of the most beautiful. Their conceptualization of creating something with integrity and structural stability, in my opinion, is one of the foremost reasons as to why they are also placed within the realm of having undeniable loveliness. The mind and its ability to not only dream, but also to design make it perhaps the most magnificent; and in the case of architecture, the Romans’ fusion of good and beautiful is impeccably executed. In all I believe that when something is pure of heart and meaning, in this case the Pantheon, they are entirely more stunning.

    Like

  14. when it comes to the science behind these buildings they are sound and sturdy and I know that these are the basics for creating homes today. when measuring out the length and width of some of these beams they do it by radius. even the pillars are seen regularly today in many of our iconic buildings such as the Lincoln memorial.

    Like

  15. It is fascinating where Romans cooperated different shape to build these buildings. Using square and circle might sound odd but they have cooperate the science in order to create this unique building by using the shapes which doesn’t seem to go along together. The Pantheon was not just built only from the idea but using the science in order to build the architect with perfect symmetry and balance out the proportion. I believe the existence of “bounds of reason” because this architect shows the artists genius side from their creative work by cooperating science and art together.

    Like

  16. Science and reasoning may seem like a restraint on the arts, but they can be an important tool by both showing artists what they can do and what they can challenge. Our ancient ancestors saw these “bounds of reason” of Sacred Geometry and decided to honor the god who created these bounds by creating a masterpiece such as the Pantheon. Combining a square and circle would not be thought of unless the challenges and rules were not placed in the first place. The existence of these mathematical rules creates a set of options artisans can use to either work with or challenge by combining.

    Like

  17. There are a plethora of aesthetic challenges in combining a square with a circle such as getting the right dimensions to be aesthetically pleasing for visitors and stand-bys to want to enter such building. For instance, with a circle pizza, it is triangularly cut. But when a circle pizza is then sliced into rectangular pieces, then the whole aesthetic of a mouth drooling pizza just seems off, still delicious but just slightly uncomfortable. I guess in a sense, this involves OCD and orders. The Roman Pantheon is a great example of this, it can also be seen as a great example of “bounds of reason.” If the cylindrical portion or “circle” of the Pantheon was too big or too small the squared portion would overtake and wouldn’t make the structure as appealing. Thus, the saying “bounds of reason” to equality of finding equilibrium in life and to be a great governing choice for the gifted class.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s