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Folio: Robert Fludd's black square

Prefiguring Malevich’s Black Square by 300 years, Fludd’s drawing extends at the edges, inscribed with the text Et sic in infinitum – ‘and so on’

Architectural review darkness

Architectural review darkness

The English physician Robert Fludd penned his black square in Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica in 1617 (‘The history of the physical and metaphysical cosmos’). In this image, Fludd attempted to capture infinity – ‘Et sic in infinitum’ is inscribed across each of the four sides. Like Malevich’s 20th-century version, Fludd’s black ‘square’ is in fact strictly speaking a rhombus; each side is deliberately distorted. While for many, the blackness might signify mortality and death, for Fludd this image represented the beginning of creation

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection

This piece is featured in the AR April 2020 issue on Darkness – click here to buy your copy today