Fig 1.14 Leon Battista Alberti, Church of San Francesco, Rimini (Tempio Malatestiano) showing frieze and inscription on an urn in one of the niches.
Fig 1.15 Andrea Mantegna, detail of Figure
Leon Battista Alberti, Self-portrait. Samuel H. Kress Collection,
National Gallery of Art, Washington
So if the setting in which this dramatic
event is taking place is Albertian, and the scene of the arrow in the eye
is seen, so to speak, through an Alberti window, then the conjecture that
the arrow in the eye is a reference to Alberti's text becomes plausible.
Our conjecture gains further support from the existence
of a second reference to arrows, in a text by Filarete.13 In
his Treatise on Architecture, Filarete discusses the technique
of drawing in perspective; much of what he has to say on this topic is an
improved exposition of Alberti's ideas. At one point, while he is explaining
how to draw square buildings, Filarete writes:
If you wish to make doors, windows,
or stairs, everything should be drawn to this point, because, as you have
understood, the centric point is your eye,14 on which everything
should rest just as the crossbowman always takes his aim on a fixed
and given point. [Emphasis mine. Filarete (Antonio di Piero Averlino), 1965,
Because the treatise is later than Mantegna's fresco (it was written between 1461 and 1464), Filarete could have borrowed it from Mantegna, from Alberti, or perhaps from yet another source.
13 Filarete is the nom-de-plume
of Antonio Averlino (ca. 1400-ca. 1469), a Florentine sculptor and architect.
14 Filarete is conflating two
concepts in a manner that was common [CWT will find
one more example] at the time: the vanishing point, to which converge
the images of lines orthogonal to the picture plane; and the eye of the painter,
which is the center of projection in the space in front of the picture. Because
the vanishing point and the center of projection move in tandem, they were
often treated as a single entity; see Chapter 2.