Patterns in Art

Patterns in Art is a new book (2019) by Francesca Leoneschi, subtitled: A Closer Look at the Old Masters.

Francesca and her collaborators look closely at the details of famous paintings by the “old masters”. They focus on the beautiful patterns in the fabric and floor tiles found in these paintings. Let’s take a closer look…

Patterns in art - a closeup look at the geometrics patterns found in the fabric of Moses' robe.
A closeup look at the geometric patterns found in the fabric of Aaron’s robe, in the painting: Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.

Patterns in Art Defined

Patterns are repeated designs; an arrangement of lines or shapes repeating at regular intervals. Patterns occur in many natural things as part of God’s design. The spiral aloe polyphylla is one of my favorite examples. Patterns in art occur as we discover and imitate God’s design for the universe. A pattern is a repetition of specific visual elements. Repeating art elements creates interest, rhythm, movement, harmony and unity. Rhythms can appear to be random, regular, or alternating. Common patterns include fractals, lattices, mosaics, stripes, spirals, and waves.

Patterns in art - The red striped robe contains many repeating patterns.
Another enlarged slice of the painting – revealing stripes and geometric patterns on the fabric: Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.

Patterns in Art – Reflecting The Fabric and Rhythm of Life

The patterns we discover in art reflect the rhythm of life. Some common fabric patterns are: basket-weave, brocade, checkered, chevron, chintz, damask, ditsy, dots, gingham, herringbone, hound’s-tooth, paisley, and stripes.

Patterns are created by repeating lines and colors. Good art illustrates the balance, contrast, harmony, rhythm and movement of life. Life is full of light, color, darkness and shadows. Life is filled with happiness, joy, confusion, discovery, disappointment, pain and sorrow.

Long shadows across the herringbone pattern of the pavement on the Navy Pier in Chicago.
Long shadows across the herringbone pattern of the pavement on the Navy Pier in Chicago. Photo by Matthew Ansley via Unsplash

Moses, Miracles, Motifs, and Mosaics

God performed various miracles by the hand of Moses when the LORD saved Israel from slavery to the Egyptians.

“Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and ‘I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.'” ~ Exodus 6:5,6

Motifs can be described as “units of pattern”. In visual arts, they are bounded areas that contain designs or repeating combinations of art elements: stamps, tiles, building blocks, and modules. Motifs can be arranged in multiple instances to create a desired effect. If you look closely at the floor tiles (in the paintings below) you will see several repeating patterns and motifs.

Biblical narratives often contain motifs. Such as the 10 plagues against Egypt.

Moses and Aaron meeting with Pharaoh
Moses and Aaron meeting with Pharaoh – Image in the public domain – courtesy of the Met Museum

“When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. ~ Exodus 7:9,10

Close-up of the snake’s head, Moses foot, and the mosaic floor tiles

Sources, Resources, and Related Links

  1. Patterns in Art – A closer look at the Old Masters. A book by Francesca Leoneschi, Giovanna Ferraris, and Silvia Lazzaris. Published by Abbeville Press in 2019. Over 170 pages of colorful prints, patterns, and historical notes.
  2. Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh: Master of the Dinteville Allegory (1537). This painting is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  3. 50 Free High Resolution Seamless Pattern Sets – by Paul Andrew on Specky Boy – 18-Jan-2021
  4. The 28 Most Common Fabric Patterns Used in Interior Design – by Caroline Biggs – 26-Dec-2021
  5. The Visual Elements – Pattern – Arty Factory – Reviewed 26-Mar-2021
  6. Biblical Narrative: How Motifs Enrich a Story – by Randy McCracken – 30-Sep-2014
  7. Free ImagesHow to Find Free High Quality Free Images for Your Website – by Douglas Vos
  8. Echoes of Exodus: Tracing a Biblical Motif – by Bryan D. Estelle

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