About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2020-2028
Publication year: 2012
ISBN: 978-84-616-0763-1
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE HISTORY OF PERSPECTIVE

J.K. Irwin

Columbia College Chicago (UNITED STATES)
This paper explores how digital technologies may be utilized to study the history of linear perspective. Digital technology is commonly employed in the design and production of buildings and spaces, yet it is much less commonly used as a tool in the historical and formal analysis of art and architecture. With digital databases available universally, such as Artstor, and with commercially available software such as Autocad, one may begin to evaluate canonical works of art with a high degree of precision to establish whether or not they are one-point linear perspectives.

Several studies of linear perspective dating from prior to the digital revolution include overlay images of perspectival spaces indicating vanishing points to support the argument that one work or another is a linear one-point perspective consistent with Alberti’s perspective method developed in the early 1400’s in Florence. Yet, if these images are evaluated using digital technology it becomes clear that many works described as perspectives lack the constituent elements of a one-point linear perspective. Alberti’s method requires a centric point, known as a vanishing point in modern nomenclature, a picture plane parallel to one surface of the object or space, and a diagonal point. Through computer analysis one finds that there is often a vanishing area rather than a vanishing point. Without a precise vanishing point, there can be no picture plane. With no picture plane, there can be no diagonal point. Without these, there is no possibility of representing spatial volume using the one-point linear perspective method.

Works such as Masaccio’s Trinity fresco at Santa Maria Novella, his Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, and Domenico Veneziano’s Annunciation each share similar formal qualities made apparent through the application of digital technology to formal analysis. As with any innovative method, there are methodological questions which deserve attention. Several of these are technical and others are historiographical. How appropriate is it to apply the precision of digital technology to an imprecise art such as painting with pigmented plaster? How reliable are original images available in digital image archives when doing an analysis of form? Have any of these been altered – stretched and pulled – in a way that changes the original proportions of the work? If Masaccio’s Trinity and other canonical works from the Early Renaissance are not one-point linear perspectives, what are they? Were there multiple methods of perspective available in Renaissance workshops in the early 1400’s? If so, how were these developed and utilized in the representation of spatial volume?

The application of digital technology to the study of Early Renaissance perspective represents an innovative methodology which will result in the re-evaluation of many long-standing assumptions in the discipline of Art and Architectural History.
@InProceedings{IRWIN2012DIG,
author = {Irwin, J.K.},
title = {DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE HISTORY OF PERSPECTIVE},
series = {5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2012 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-0763-1},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {19-21 November, 2012},
year = {2012},
pages = {2020-2028}}
TY - CONF
AU - J.K. Irwin
TI - DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE HISTORY OF PERSPECTIVE
SN - 978-84-616-0763-1/2340-1095
PY - 2012
Y1 - 19-21 November, 2012
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2012 Proceedings
SP - 2020
EP - 2028
ER -
J.K. Irwin (2012) DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE HISTORY OF PERSPECTIVE, ICERI2012 Proceedings, pp. 2020-2028.
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