Painting - Homothetic Triangles (Hippocrates of Chios)

Two polygons are said to be homothetic if they are similar and their corresponding sides are parallel. If two polygons are homothetic, then the lines joining their corresponding vertices meet at a point.
The diagram on which this painting is based is intended to illustrate the homothetic nature of two polygons ABCDE . . . and A'B'C'D'E' . . . From the title, it appears that Crockett Johnson wished to call attention of homothetic triangular pairs ABS and A'B'S, BCS and B'C'S, CDS and C'D'S, DES and D'E'S, etc. The painting follows a diagram that appears in Nathan A. Court's College Geometry (1964 printing). Court's diagram suggests how one constructs a polygon homothetic to a given polygon. Hippocrates of Chios, the foremost mathematician of the fifth century BC, knew of similarity properties, but there is no evidence that he dealt with the concept of homothecy.
To illustrate his figure, the artist chose four colors; red, yellow, teal, and purple. He used one tint and one shade of each of these four colors. The larger polygon is painted in tints while the smaller polygon is painted in shades. The progression of the colors follows the order of the color wheel, and the black background enhances the vibrancy of the painting.
Homothetic Triangles, painting #17 in the Crockett Johnson series, is painted in oil on masonite. The work was completed in 1966 and is signed: CJ66. It is inscribed on the back: Crockett Johnson 1966 (/) HOMOTHETIC TRIANGLES (/) (HIPPOCRATES OF CHIOS). It has a black wooden frame.
References: Court, Nathan A., College Geometry, (1964 printing), 38-9.
van der Waarden, B. L., Science Awakening (1954 printing), 131-136.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Hippocrates of Chios
Johnson, Crockett
Physical Description
masonite (substrate material)
wood (frame material)
overall: 65 cm x 43.5 cm x 3.8 cm; 25 9/16 in x 17 1/8 in x 1 1/2 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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