Holbein's Mastery
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The Role of Perspective: Page 6

The Role of Perspective in Shaping the Renaissance

Another example of the two-point perspective style is this view of the Temple of Concordia by Piranesi (Fig. 14), one of his series of etchings on the ruins of ancient Rome (ruins that are still viewable today). It is obvious that oblique vanishing points to left and right have replaced the central vanishing point of the Renaissance, although this simple modification was not appreciated for 200 years after the central perspective came to the fore. The 18th century finally saw effective control over the two-point perspective construction that seemed to have eluded the artists of previous epochs.


Fig. 14. ‘Another View of the Remains of the Pronaos of the Temple of Concordia’ by Piranesi (1774).

This brief survey has sketched the outline of spatial representation over two and a half millennia. It is the story of a struggle between inspiration and geometric analysis. For much of the period, geometry was regarded with the highest appreciation and yet the human mind was unable to get an adequate grasp on the intricacies of this construction. Even though the central perspective construction may have been perfected by the master exponents, attempts to employ a more flexible construction seemed to be limited and rigid. The few mathematical treatises that explored new modes of perspective failed to distill them down to rules that could be employed by artists. Nevertheless, the interplay between the power of perspective and the difficulty of its implementation seems to have been one of the motivating forces through the Renaissance and beyond. Even in the twentieth century, when perspective conventions were disregarded or elaborated beyond recognition, the effects have often played off the yoke of perspective realism that came to dominate most 18th and 19th century art. For or against, perspective has been a major influence throughout the history of Western art.

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