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Posts Tagged ‘Venice

“There is no business like show business. There is also no business like certified public accounting, but that doesn’t rhyme as well.”*…

 

Pacioli

Portrait of Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, attributed to Jacopo de’ Barbari

 

Modern capitalism began among the European merchant families of the early Renaissance—the Fuggers of Augsburg, Medicis of Florence and, in Venice, one Antonio de Rompiasi, who in 1464 hired a tutor in mathematics for his three sons. Like any sensible teacher, young Luca Pacioli aimed to make his lessons memorable and clear. Good humanist that he was, 30 years later he gathered all the world’s knowledge of the subject into a single massive volume.

His “Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita” was the 615-page work of a mature professor who had spent decades working across northern Italy. The book was revolutionary on more than one count. It integrated computation using Hindu-Arabic numerals with the logic of classic Greek geometry; it was written in the Italian of the marketplace rather than Latin; and it was circulated in large numbers thanks to the new technology of printing. Yet its greatest significance lay in a slim ‘how to’ chapter that described the double-entry accounting system used by Venetian merchants.

With examples from dealers in butter to lemons to silk, Pacioli set out the method for tracking income and expenditure and the calculation of net profit or loss, which for the first time allowed an immediate snapshot of a firm’s financial position. This slim section would facilitate the birth of the modern corporation.

“Without order there is chaos,” Pacioli observed in a breezy style that is still in vogue in business books today. His manual is stuffed with quotes from scripture and Dante and pithy advice such as “Don’t learn from ignoramuses who have more leaves than grapes.” He wrote the accounting chapter to help would-be traders in Venice, then the capital of the financial world, “sleep easily at night”. Without double-entry book-keeping, “their minds would keep them awake with worry”. He could not suspect that what might be called “Book-keeping for Dummies” would become the backbone of business for centuries.

Like many monumental works of 15th-century printing, Pacioli’s treatise has survived in its original form. Some 120 copies still exist, from an initial run of about 1,000. Now today’s moguls have a chance to own this first folio of finance. Christie’s, the auction house, is offering a first edition in its original vellum binding for sale in New York on June 12th. The starting price is $1m for what it unabashedly calls “the most influential work in the history of capitalism.”

Pacioli’s later life augments the glamour of the first printed use of ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ signs. Impressed by the book, Leonardo da Vinci convinced his patron Lodovico Sforza to hire Pacioli to teach at the court of Milan. Pacioli and Leonardo collaborated on the treatise “Divina Proportione,” which married maths with art through the study of perspective. Not one, but two Renaissance masters were thus responsible for the exquisite harmony of “The Last Supper”…

The 15th-century guide to book-keeping enabled the rise of modern corporations: “A revolutionary treatise goes on the block.”

* Craig Shaw Gardner

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As we count carefully, we might recall that it was on this date in 1902 that a US patent (#701,839) was issued to Americus F. Callahan of Chicago, Ill., which he called the outlook envelope– what we call the window envelope.

300px-USPatent701839-CallahanAmericus-WindowedEnvelope source

 

Eating like it’s your last meal…

source

A pair of scholarly siblings compared 52 artists’ renditions of “The Last Supper,” and found that the size of the meal painted had grown through the years. Over the last millennium they found that entrees had increased by 70%, bread by 23%, and plate size by 65.6%. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The apostles depicted during the Middle Ages appear to be the ascetics they are said to have been. But by 1498, when Leonardo da Vinci completed his masterpiece, the party was more lavishly fed. Almost a century later, the Mannerist painter Jacobo Tintoretto piled the food on the apostles’ plates still higher.

Read the LA Times story here. (Via Slashdot)

As we think twice about “super-sizing that,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1309 that Pope Clement V (best remembered perhaps for suppressing the Knights Templar, executing many of its members, and thus, securing the career of Dan Brown) excommunicated the City of Venice– all of it, every last resident.  Indeed, he decreed that Venetian citizens captured abroad could be sold into slavery “like non-Christians.” He was a pawn of French King Philip IV; still…

Clement V

Oh say can you see…?

source: Dark Roasted Blend

On the heels of a weekend of frankfurter-fortified patriotism here in the U.S., the good folks at Dark Roasted Blend have published a momento mori– “Flags of Forgotten Countries“…

Consider the beauty above– the standard of one of the superpowers of its time, The Most Serene Republic of Venice.  A version of this pennant waved for most of the thousand years– from the late seventh century to 1797– that Venice stood sovereign…  a period that ended with the city-state’s defeat by Napoleon, himself the author of a number of now-redundant flags.

See the whole collection here.

As we think timeless thoughts, we might recall that in the midst of Venetian ascendancy, on this date in 1593, across the boot in Rome, Artemisia Gentileschi was born.  Influenced by her father Orazio and his mentor Caravaggio, she was the first female painter to tackle historic and heroic themes that were at the time believed to be “beyond the reach of women,” and to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

Artemisia, self-portrait

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