Meditation on the Theorem of Pythagoras

Mel Bochner

Magazzino Italian Art

Magazzino Italian Art
Cold Spring, United States

Explorations of mathematical systems of counting and order feature prominently in Bochner’s work and, especially, in Meditation on the Theorem of Pythagoras. This work was first conceived during
a trip to Bari, Italy in 1972. While there, Bochner discovered that the Pythagoreans lived in the town of Metapontum—now Crotone, Calabria—which held a Pythagorean temple. Bochner decided to visit the site and create an homage to the famous philosopher, who shared his belief that numbers and the relationships between them heavily impacted reality. While he anticipated using 50 stones in the process, Bochner was surprised to have three remaining after completing the sculpture. Upon reflection, he realized, “On the one hand you have theoretical space where points are defined as having no dimensions. And on the other...you have a real space where the three corner-points overlap. So, of course, it only took 47 stones. It was a kind of epiphany for me...Because it was my realization that sculpture exists in the space where the mental and the physical overlap.”3 Around 1990, the artist was invited to recreate the revelatory work for an exhibition at Sergio Casoli’s gallery in Milan, which was soon revealed to be Lucio Fontana’s former studio. Casoli allowed Bochner to look through the boxes of materials that Fontana left behind after his death, which led him to discover the remaining pieces of colored glass that the artist inserted into the surfaces of his famous Pietre series of Concetto Spaziale paintings. Profoundly inspired by his findings, Bochner recreated the sculptural offering he made to Pythagoras in 1972, now using these beautifully hued chunks of Fontana’s Murano glass, which attributed the work with an even deeper significance than it held before.


  • Title: Meditation on the Theorem of Pythagoras
  • Creator: Mel Bochner
  • Creator Lifespan: b. 1940
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Date Created: 1972 / 1993
  • Physical Dimensions: h 431.8, w 406.4 cm
  • Rights: Courtesy the artist
  • Medium: Murano glass on floor

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