The picture below of revellers in Manchester, captured by Joel Goodman in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2016, became a viral sensation, retweeted 29,000 times, after the BBC’s Roland Hughes noted on Twitter that it resembled a beautiful painting.
Pictures like this are often described as "accidental Renaissance", indicating that they inadvertently conform to traditional Renaissance ideas of beauty and symmetry. They often seem to fit the principle of the Golden Rectangle – a rectangle (shown below in pink) used by Renaissance artists where the longer side (a) plus the shorter side (b) divided by the longer side (a) is equal to the longer side (a) divided by the shorter side (b).
This is based on the formula known as the Golden Ratio:
Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, for example, famously uses the ratio to place the finger of God in exactly the right place.
The Fibonacci spiral
Renaissance artists would use the ratio with the visual aid of the Fibonacci spiral, which is created by drawing circular arcs connecting the opposite corners of squares in the Golden Rectangle. It was devised by mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in the year 1202.
Above left is a Golden Rectangle with a series of rectangles and one square within it. The numbers represent the way the different sections of the Golden Rectangle are formed. They follow the sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34... The next number can always be found by adding up the two numbers before it.
Above right you can see the Golden Rectangle with the Fibonacci spiral added.
Here is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Note how all the key dimensions of the room align with the Golden Ratio – although some of the rectangles used within it finish off-canvas.
We found our own modern-day photographs that seem to unintentionally mirror the composition of Italian Renaissance paintings, and applied the Golden Ratio to them...
4. Comparing a photo of an emotional Frank Lampard to an Italian masterpiece.
Chelsea's Frank Lampard is congratulated by Didier Drogba, left, and Ricardo Carvalho, right, after scoring against Liverpool during their Champions League second-leg semifinal soccer match at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, Wednesday, 30 April 2008. (Right) The Virgin Mary holding Christ’s lifeless body in Sandro Botticelli’s "Pity".