Alice Boner and the Geometry of Temple Cave Art of India

Robert V. Moody
Renaissance Banff: Mathematics, Music, Art, Culture (2005)
Pages 101–108


Alice Boner (1889-1981) was a Swiss-trained sculptor and artist who lived in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi (a.k.a. Benares) from 1936 until 1978. Her passion was oriental art, particularly the art of India. India’s rich cultural history goes back at least three millennia, although sadly much of its art is lost: in India the climate rapidly destroys anything remotely perishable, and over the course of centuries much of what did not succumb to climate was intentionally destroyed in the various Mogul invasions and endless strife between local contending kingdoms. Notable exceptions are massive sculptural reliefs in stone that date from the 6th- 9th centuries and appear in a number of sites around India. It is to these that Alice Boner was drawn over and over again. Fortunately for us she kept a diary, and though she wrote into it rather infrequently, what she did write was deeply personal and offers a fascinating insight into her creative artistic life, her struggles and doubts, and the passions that led her to her discoveries about the geometrical underpinnings of this Indian temple cave art.