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Depictions of fluid phenomena in art

An analysis of representations of fluid flows in classical paintings reveals scientific inaccuracies. Some of these misrepresentations might be caused by a limited understanding of fluid dynamics and others by deliberate artistic choices.

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Fig. 1: Merchants from Overseas (1901) is one of the most recognizable paintings by Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947).

Eraza Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Fig. 2: Bacchus (c. 1596) by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610).

GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Fig. 3: La Source (1820–1856) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867).

Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy Stock Photo

Fig. 4: Soap Bubbles (Les Bulles de Savon) (1733–1734) by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779).

Archivart/Alamy Stock Photo


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The author is grateful to A. Stasenko, whose article5 sparked a life-long interest in the subject of depicting fluid phenomena in art — the illustrations of which have been used by the author in fluid mechanics classes both at the University of California at Santa Barbara and University of Alberta.

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Correspondence to Rouslan Krechetnikov.

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Krechetnikov, R. Depictions of fluid phenomena in art. Nat. Phys. 18, 1256–1259 (2022).

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