Mythological Archetype

In 2007, I painted the oil on canvas reproduction below based on an original ceiling fresco by Gabriel Ferrier in the Musee D'Orsay, Paris. I found it to have some very interesting properties.

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Painted in the late 19th century, this is neither a religious nor a specific mythological scene. Instead, it depicts an archetype for Earth's four seasons with Autumn entering from the right, Winter at bottom, Spring in the center and Summer in the upper left. Corresponding approximately to the four points of a 3-dimensional tetrahedron floating in the sky, Ferrier was personifying the octave color wheel by aligning the figures with the spectral colors as shown at bottom.

In fact, he specifically centered his design around the color indigo corresponding to the supertonic of a diatonic scale (the "ninth") and its corresponding Partial 9 in the harmonic series. Furthermore, his placement of the green and inverted companion to Diana the Huntress (as the Autumn season) alludes to the shift from green to red in Fall colors. Harmonically, Red X Green is a tritone (or half-octave) that corresponds to the highly resonant anti-nodes in a standing wave (crests of the wave shown at bottom). Ferrier is indicating his knowledge of the tritone and emphasizes its importance with these complementary opposites.

Ferrier clearly was aware of some of the essential ideas of Pythagorean harmonic philosophy and may have even been an adept in one of the secret French societies, though no evidence can be found to confirm this. With each element of the scene aligning with the logarithmic color octave like a musical scale, this mural by Gabriel Ferrier is an excellent example of Pythagorean harmonic philosophy.