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WCMA: 'Cracking the Code on Numerology'
11:47AM / Thursday, March 28, 2024
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) opens a new exhibition, "Cracking the Cosmic Code: Numerology in Medieval Art."
The exhibit opened on March 22.
According to a press release: 
The idea that numbers emanate sacred significance, and connect the past with the future, is prehistoric and global. Rooted in the Babylonian science of astrology, medieval Christian numerology taught that God created a well-ordered universe. Deciphering the universe's numerical patterns would reveal the Creator's grand plan for humanity, including individual fates. 
This unquestioned concept deeply pervaded European cultures through centuries. Theologians and lay people alike fervently interpreted the Bible literally and figuratively via number theory, because as King Solomon told God, "Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight" (Wisdom 11:22). 
"Cracking the Cosmic Code" explores medieval relationships among numbers, events, and works of art. The medieval and Renaissance art on display in this exhibition from the 5th to 17th centuries—including a 15th-century birth platter by Lippo d'Andrea from Florence; a 14th-century panel fragment with courtly scenes from Palace Curiel de los Ajos, Valladolid, Spain; and a 12th-century wall capital from the Monastery at Moutiers-Saint-Jean—reveal numerical patterns as they relate to architecture, literature, gender, and timekeeping. 
"There was no realm of thought that was not influenced by the all-consuming belief that all things were celestially ordered, from human life to stones, herbs, and metals," said WCMA Assistant Curator Elizabeth Sandoval, who curated the exhibition. "As Vincent Foster Hopper expounds, numbers were 'fundamental realities, alive with memories and eloquent with meaning.' These artworks tease out numerical patterns and their multiple possible meanings, in relation to gender, literature, and the celestial sphere. 
"The exhibition looks back while moving forward: It relies on the collection's strengths in Western medieval Christianity, but points to the future with goals of acquiring works from the global Middle Ages. It also nods to the history of the gallery as a medieval period room at this pivotal time in WCMA's history before the momentous move to a new building," Sandoval said.
Cracking the Cosmic Code runs through Dec. 22.
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