Not all Magic Squares had their roots in Astrology or Mysticism. The engraving “Melencolia I” by Albrecht Durer contained a 4 x 4 magic square and was probably the first example associating Magic Squares with art.

Durer’s Magic Square is in fact an adaptation of one of the simplest ways to actually generate a 4 x 4 Magic Square.

Consider the 4 x 4 square below, numbered consecutively from 1 to 16.

(Left diagonal)

(Right diagonal)

Combining the two gives us the following 4 x 4 Magic Square:

On close observation you will notice that it similar, but different to Durer’s Magic Square engraved in “Melencolia I”.

If we interchange the numbers in the second and third columns we obtain Durer’s magic square.

Why the change ?

Perhaps it is because the year of the engraving was 1514, the two numbers lying in the centre of the bottom row ?

Also, the numbers 1 and 4 on either side of the year “15 14” correspond to the letters A and D, the artist’s initials.

Magic squares have been an integral part of mathematics, history, alchemy, the study of planets and even art. Next you’ll learn how they’re also the catalyst for many of the other elements conducive to success in my upcoming game app.

William Walkington

Dec 6, 2015 -

I enjoyed reading your pages. Concerning the Dürer square I now know that the 1 and 4 can signify the artist’s initials A.D.

A MAGIC SQUARE TRIBUTE TO DÜRER, 500+ YEARS AFTER MELENCOLIA published on my blog gives further information for those who may be interested.