The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein, 1533. The tools refer to the Quadrivium, the four mathematical disciplines that were part of the Seven Liberal Arts: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.
We decided not to use generic graphics for our web site because there were so many beautiful paintings to choose from to help us get across the ideas we wanted to express. We think that our work deals with beauty, as a well-executed project or a flawlessly produced publication can be a thing of beauty. To make the point about training tools, we chose Hans Holbein's Ambassadors (1533), a portrait of the French ambassadors to the court of Henry VIII of England. The tools on the table between the diplomats refer to the Quadrivium, the four mathematical disciplines that were part of the Seven Liberal Arts: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Art historians have long debated the meaning of the geometrically contorted skull in the foreground, which appears in a normal shape when the painting is viewed from a different angle; when the skull appears as normal, the rest of the painting fades out of perspective. Could this be a reference to human mortality, the consideration of which tends to put all the accouterments of this world into a different perspective? For more discussion and references, see this web page devoted to the painting.