The Alexander Sarcophagus
An Analysis

Disclaimer: Please note that my approach to this analysis focuses on aesthetic inspiration, practicality, and possible theoretical implications rather than claiming historical accuracy.


Alexander Sarcophagus

Illustration of Alexander Sarcophagus by Hans E Andersson, 1995

In 1995, during my visit to Istanbul on a scholarship** to study Islamic patterns, I came across the remarkable Alexander Sarcophagus at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The sarcophagus, discovered in 1887 in Sidon, dates back to the late 4th century BC. Although it never actually belonged to King Alexander the Great of Macedonia, whose tomb remains undiscovered, it was named after him because of the battle scenes depicted on its sides.


Alexander Sarcophagus, Analysis

Image Analysis and Photography by Hans E Andersson, 1995

Upon returning home, I closely examined the photographs and drawings I had taken during my visit. I noticed that the composition featured very distinct diagonals that were consistently repeated across the length of the carved friezes. Intrigued, I decided to conduct an analysis using root rectangles to determine if a composition grid might underlie the design.

Alexander Sarcophagus

Click here to view an enlarged version of the image.

After my analysis, I concluded that the composition and layout of the frieze seem to be based on the "golden ratio," also known as "phi."

Alexander Sarcophagus

The grid I used in my analysis features an extreme and mean ratio.

Alexander Sarcophagus Composition Grid

In the image above, you can see red squares and rectangles. Within these shapes, smaller divisions can be made, and they all relate to each other using the following formula:

The golden cut

The unit 1 relates to 0.618 as 1.618 to 1. In ancient Greece, this ratio was referred to as "phi" or "φ." This ratio was also known as dividing a line into the extreme and mean ratio. In broader terms, this ratio is commonly referred to as the "golden mean," "golden ratio," "golden section," "golden cut," "golden number," or "divine proportion."


**Johnssonstiftelsen, Thank you.


© Hans E Andersson


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