Perspective in paintings

Perspective in paintings

Perspective is the science that has contributed to change the formal composition of the paintings, favoring the transition from medieval to modern Renaissance art. Prospective research reflects the desire and necessity to have a science able to develop a technique to dominate the physical space that, together with the development of cartography, could convey the people of that era, closed for centuries in an Aristotelian view of the world, in a society governed by reason and science, open to the great discoveries that shortly the great explorers would have concretized.

The perspective is the result of a process that developed during the XIII and XIV centuries and which reached full maturity in Florence, in Italy, with Filippo Brunelleschi, who rationalized and codified the perspective itlself making it become a real science. The main element for the perspective construction of a painting is governed by certain mathematical laws, which determine a unified perspective vanishing point; the framework built with the use of this technique acquires spatial depth and perfect proportions. Talking about the authors who contributed to the development of the perspective revolution, it is essential to mention Paolo Uccello, a painter who spent days and nights working at its perfection. The passion for the perspective and for his studies was so assiduous as to induce Vasari to describe it as a real mania that reached such a point that the painter worked all night, insensitive to the calls of his wife who invited him to lie down. In every work by Paolo Uccello, the choice to privilege the perspective representation above all is clear.

We all know comic books: we read a lot of them as youngs; the narration of the stories contained in them is developed with a sequence of images divided into many spatial units separated from each other. Scrolling from left to right, the story proceeds with narrative continuity in the page, helped by the recognizability of each character of the story; the reader connects each spatial unit to the next, thus reconstructing the sequence of events. This sequential narrative method was born in the artistic field and has been widely used in painting. A use similar to the narrative sequence, without using division into separate spatial units, has been widely used by artists since ancient times. The Greeks used it with great skill in the representations developed on the surface of many vases. Romans also made it wide use: the Trajan column is a typical example.

Representing a "continuous narration" with the use of many sequential spatial units is relatively easy, but what technique can be used when we want to represent a "continuous narration" in the space of a single painting? It’s simple: the perspective, which allows a parallelism between the temporal dimension of the story and the spatial dimension of the image; in other words, the characters are represented proportionally smaller or larger to alert the observer that the various episodes are not simultaneous, but separated from each other by a temporal distance which is translated in perspective in terms of spatial distance.

Posted on 02/21/2019 Art Blog 189