Visualizing forms as relationships between basic geometric shapes can help stone carvers transfer two-dimensional preparatory drawings into the three dimensions of stone.
While at Duke, master stone carver Simon Verity identified a pentagonal, or five-sided, shape around the exterior of the Nasher’s Virtue. Its nose and ears form three of the points, while the back of the head touches a plane and creates the remaining two points. After measuring and creating a few preliminary sketches, Verity developed a theory that medieval sculptors may have carved the heads of figures from a rough, pentagonal block, rather than a cube or cylinder.
The pentagon is both the interior shape and the exterior perimeter of the connected five points and lines of a pentagram, or star, which is a religious symbol frequently referenced in religious art. Medieval stone carvers may have used this five-sided shape as a divine reference, but also as a starting guide and mental alignment to visualize the face and head within the stone.