Knot Pattern (The Fifth Knot)
Unknown artist, Italian
Knot Pattern (The Fifth Knot), ca. 1495–1498
Engraving on cream laid paper
Plate: 26.4 x 19.8 cm (10 3/8 x 7 13/16 inches)
Museum Works of Art Fund 47.666
The word portrayed in the center of this elaborate engraving - “Vi(n)ci” – may allude to two things-the birthplace of the artist Leonardo da Vinci and the Latin verb vincire, “to bind.” Da Vinci probably created the design for the print, one of six knot patterns associated with him and subsequently engraved by an unknown artist. The knot pattern held a theoretical interest for Da Vinci and his artistic coterie in Mantua. A knot conveyed both clarity and complexity while providing an elegant metaphor for the concept of infinity. Da Vinci also revered the circle as the most perfect geometric shape. The intricate, dark background of the engraving required the engraver to cut the plate with painstakingly dense hatching.