Perspective tour of the National Gallery

I wrote this quick tour for one of my students for her M.A project. She will be creating a much better framework for it. The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes Margarito of Arezzo. C 1263 This is a typical 'Byzantine' style of medieval painting. It is a story-telling painting with scenes from various saints lives. The figures are static and the spaces unreal. It is very beautiful with copious use of Gold Leaf and the main role of the painting is to tell the stories of the Saints. Pentacost. Giotto c 1310 In this Florentine painting, you can see Giotto groping towards an understanding of perspective. The room is not quite 3 dimensional, but he has created a sense of space. The people similarly are becoming more realistic, and clearly engaging with the action. The picture is a moment frozen in time, rather than a a stylised iconic summary of a biblical tale. Annunciation, Duccio. 1307 Meanwhile in Sienna, Duccio is striving for the same effects: arcading which gives a feeling of a real space, and a picture as a moment in time, with the Archangel Gabriel saying: 'Hi, Mary! You are about to be the mother of the Son of God'. She looks a bit overwhelmed. Video of the rediscovery of perspective The Virgin and Child, 1426, Masaccio Slovenly Tom or Massacio was an early adopter of the new (re-)discovery by Brunelleschi of the rules of single-point perspective. And in this Virgin and Child you can see the architectural majesty of Mary's chair, and the lutes both coming out of the image and into the plane of the painting. The figures are rounded and have volume, and Jesus is a big fat Italian baby greedily eating the Grapes that prefigure his martyrdom Paolo Uccello Battle of San Romano c 1438 Paulo Uccello was obsessed with perspective, even refusing his wife's request to come to bed, because he preferred to spend time on his perspective studies. And in this battle scene, he has gone slightly mad. A distant perspective in the background that does not work very well. Mad many sided hats, and lances that have fallen along the lines of the single-point perspective. This was commissioned by the Medici family Four Scenes from the Early Life of Saint Zenobius Sandro Botticelli c1490 And then everyone had to have a perspective painting! It was as if a key to a magical kingdom had been distributed. 3D on a 2D surface! Wow! Carlo Crivelli (about 1430/5–about 1494) The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius', 1486 Here, from across the Apennines in La Marche, is Crivelli gorging on perspective. He shows he can do deep urban perspective, complicated interiors. A tour de force but does he get that impregnating ray from God right? Doesn't it bend on the way though the house? And why is the Archangel Gabriel detained on the most important mission of the Christian world by that gorgeous Bishop? Because its not really a religious paintings its about Ascoli being given a measure of self-government from the Pope. The Virgin can wait. Venus and Mars. about 1485, Sandro Botticelli Eventually, artists put their perspective back in the tool box where it belongs, bringing it out only on demand, or in the cause of art. They stopped being gobsmaked by it, they stopped showing off. They just used it.


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