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The Italian Game

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I don't usually bother with the various chess tidbits that pop up in the mainstream press, but I'm always up for a Luca Pacioli reference. He's best known for his contributions to modern accounting, which explains why the Italians are so far ahead of the rest of the world in totally screwing up anything to do with money. He also dabbled in chess, his c.1500 De ludo scacchorum booklet was discovered in 2006. Some wondered at the time if the illustrations were the work of a collaborator and tutee of Pacioli, Leonardo da Vinci, who nevertheless went on to a certain fame in other areas thanks largely to Tom Hanks. Now scholars are claiming that the chess diagrams are indeed the product of the hand that drew the Mona Lisa (obligatory Eduard Gufeld reference). (I've always been more fond of this one, myself.)

The king, queen, bishop and knight are all represented by elegant and distinctive symbols, coloured in black and red ink; so finely drawn that it soon became clear these must be the hand of another artist.

The researchers say they are confident these are the drawings of Leonardo and they have asked experts in the United States to make a second, independent assessment. The manuscript was discovered last year among thousands of volumes in a private library in Gorizzia, north-east Italy.

Pacioli and Leonardo were working and collaborating on each other's works around the year 1500. Leonardo is thought to have understood chess and maybe he even played it. He made a reference to a technical term from the game in one of his many manuscripts.

Hmm, what was that chess reference by da Vinci? To be honest, the only page I've seen doesn't exactly look like a work of art. Better than some chess publishers manage today perhaps, but not much more than a doodle someone without any artistic talent would make with some time. Perhaps they're talking about something else, or it looks different in person, or I'm not giving enough credit for the difference in tools used.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 26, 2008 7:07 PM.

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