Portrait of Luca Pacioli  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Portrait of Luca Pacioli is a painting attributed to the Italian Renaissance artist Jacopo de' Barbari, dating to around 1500 and housed in the Capodimonte Museum, Naples, southern Italy.



The painting, which portrays the Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli, is mentioned for the first time in a 1631 inventory of the Ducal Palace of Urbino.

It was later moved to Florence through Vittoria della Rovere-Medici, belonging to both the reigning dynasties of Urbino and Tuscany. The painting reappeared in the 19th century, as a property of the Ottaviano branch of the Medicis. It was subsequently acquired by the Italian state to prevent that it could be sold to England.


The painting has been generically attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari due to the presence of a cartouche with the inscription IACO.BAR. VIGENNIS. P. 1495, with the enigmatic presence of a fly above it. However, the attribution to the Venetian painter is now generally regarded as wrong, due to pictorial and historical considerations.

The painting has been even attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, who had collaborated with Pacioli when he moved to Milan in 1496.


The painting portrays the friar and mathematician with a table filled with geometrical tools: slate, chalk, compass, a dodecahedron model. A rhombicuboctahedron, half-filled with water and characterized by detailed a triple reflection effect of the Ducal Palace of Urbino, is suspended from the ceiling. Pacioli is demonstrating a theorem by Euclid written on an open book. The closed book, with the inscription LI.RI.LUC.BUR. ("Liber reverendi Luca Burgensis") is supposed to be his Summa de arithmetica geometria proportioni et proportionalità (1494).

The character on the right has not been exactly identified: he could be Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, the then duke of Urbino who was a fervent scholar of mathematics and to whom the Summa was dedicated, the German painter Albrecht Dürer, or with one Francesco di Bartolomeo Archinto, of whom a very similar portrait, of Leonardesque school, exists in the National Gallery, London.

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