Reconstructing the Illusion: VH on Bernini's Solid-Perspective for Felipe IV

Reconstructing the Illusion: VH on Bernini's Solid-Perspective for Felipe IV

Fabio Colonnese (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7555-9.ch012

Abstract

This chapter describes and critically reviews all the phases of an enquiry supported by the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid on an almost unknown project of a monument for Felipe IV of Spain in the portico of the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The process consists of analysis and re-drawing after the existing documents, of modeling of the solid-perspective sacellum and the bronze statue actually made by Girolamo Lucenti, and of presentation and dissemination of the results, in form of video in the exhibition in Madrid and in other visual product to illustrate scientific publications. This process has been didactically divided between digital heritage, the translation of tangible historical-testimonial documents into digital formats, and virtual heritage, the production of original digital contents aimed at visually recreating the unbuilt monument and its perspective deceptive effects.
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Introduction

At the beginning of 2012, Delfin Rodriguez Ruiz, Professor of Art History at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid and passionate scholar of Baroque art, agreed with El Museo Nacional del Prado to organize an exhibition aimed at reconstructing and exhibiting the relationships the Roman artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini had had with the Royal Court of Spain in the political and cultural environment of the 17th century. The exhibition entitled Las Animas de Bernini: Arte en Roma para la corte espanola, which was arranged in four rooms of the museum from 6 November 2014 to 8 February 2015, presented documents and works by Bernini and other artists of his age.1

In anticipation of the exhibition, Rodriguez Ruiz involved some scholars to investigate the role of Bernini as an artist for the Spanish crown and to analyze some of the works to be exhibited. These studies converged into a book entitled Bernini: Roma y la Monarquia Hispanica, which has been published at the end of 2014.

As a part of these studies, the author was involved by Prof. Marcello Fagiolo in the enquiry of a little-known architectural project made by Bernini as a monument dedicated to Felipe IV of Spain to be built in Rome. The research work was conducted with the scientific criteria aligned with the recent guidelines of Digital Heritage (DH) and Virtual Heritage (VH). An initial stage of reading, analysis, and interpretation of the documents was followed by both the three-dimensional digital reconstruction of the structure, which has helped to highlight a number of geometric and constructive aspects that were imperceptible in the designs, and the editing of proper visual and multimedia products designed to complement the historical document during the exhibition and to promote a full understanding of its theatrical and illusionistic values.

This chapter is organized in parts that methodologically and critically cover the phases of the entire process of study, knowledge, reconstruction, modeling, animation, exposition and dissemination of the results of this research. In particular, the first section expresses a concise historical framework of the context in which the monument was designed, the role Bernini had in the process and its historiographical misfortune. The second section describes the sources the author has been taking into account to understand and reconstruct the sacellum designed by Bernini and its planned location in the portico of the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome. The third section describes the operations specifically related to the DH phase, ranging from the digital copy of the design sheets to their critical re-drawing. The fourth section describes the operations specifically related to the VH phase, ranging from the construction of the two-dimensional model of the project to the rendering and animation after the three-dimensional reconstruction model. The fifth section describes the operations of disclosure and presentation of the results, with particular attention to the specificities of the involved media and target. The sixth section is dedicated to a final consideration on the whole operation about the agency of digital models in DH and VH practices.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Solid or Material Perspective: A spatial configuration designed according to the projective principle of linear perspective in order to produce an alteration of the perceived space which can be also explored bodily.

Rear Point (RP): A virtual point generally placed behind the perspective room to which edges of room perpendicular to PP converge.

Point of View (VP): A virtual point generally placed at the height of observer’s eyes and before the PP from which the edges of a solid-perspective room converging to RP appear to be regular and generally in continuity with the actual space of the observer.

False Perspective: A spatial configuration designed according to the projective principle of linear perspective in order to produce an alteration of the perceived space.

Forced or Accelerated Perspective: A spatial configuration designed according to the projective principle of linear perspective in order to suggest a distance or depth longer than the actual one.

Perspective Plane (PP): A virtual (vertical) plane dividing the ordinary space of the observer from the fictive space of false or solid-perspective architecture.

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