Fibonacci’s spiral and the Golden Ratio

I have never quite ‘got’ Fibonacci because I have never needed to but a recent image brought it right into focus. In the absence of real world moving models to draw, I’ve been using the live stream from NASA’s JPL laboratory where they’re building the 2020 Mars lander, and while everyone is dressed in white one piece coveralls, boots, hoods, and masks, they move, they gesture, they bend and stretch, climb and curl up into small spaces. Two days ago they formed a tableau that reminded me of a piece of classic art but I couldn’t recall what it was. It turned out to have been a photograph, but one that sparked discussion about Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio. This is the tableau:

nasa mars tableau 2 august 2019

Here is the street photograph with the Fibonacci ratios drawn in by a twitter user:

street photo fib

And here is the NASA image with those ratios roughly applied:


While the focus isn’t quite on a key action, it does fall right in the centre of an area framed by action. There is a staggered group of people at different elevations above right, a seated figure lower down in the foreground, a reclining figure in the centre, and a balancing observer over to the left – all within the key areas. The Golden Ratio is what made this much more than a work place snap; it’s why the tableau struck me as special, and why I followed it up and (re)discovered the Fibonacci principles behind it. It will be something I think about explicitly in future compositions.

I still haven’t found the painting this reminded me of. Da Vinci’s Last Supper has elements with the standing, arm-waving men to the right and the seated, more conspiratorial and distracted ones, to the left but it doesn’t have the tumble of men up in the right of the frame that I can see in my mind’s eye. If anyone reading this has an idea, I would be very grateful for a lead!

da vinci
image from Italofile accessed 13/8/19



14th August and thank you to FB friend, Irena Pasvinter for this:

fib parliament
from the Daily Dot, August 2014

It seems that, once internalised, Fibonacci compositions can be spotted everywhere.


3 thoughts on “Fibonacci’s spiral and the Golden Ratio

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