The Dynamic Eye: Anamorphosis and Beholder between XVI and XVII Centuries

The Dynamic Eye: Anamorphosis and Beholder between XVI and XVII Centuries

Giuseppe D'Acunto (Università Iuav di Venezia, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0029-2.ch016
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Abstract

During the Sixteenth century, the studies about perspective reach an higher level of systematize, so high to open their field of action to geographical and astronomic representations: In the painting and ornamental art, especially, it start to use a different way of perspective technique more cunning and provocative, in agreement with the desire of contemporaneous artists and scientists to go beyond, across the limit of reality where ‘it shown only things that you can see' for a fresh look – physical and symbolic - to the Other from her- or himself, to a new and more exciting overlook in which “…the appearance eclipses the reality”. The more odd and bizarre aspects of the perspective rules' turn into the aim of research, where its interior laws are taken to an extreme level and are employed to verify the expressive prospect of the same technique, beyond any restitution of realistic appearance to the represented subject, organic or not. It is so the time of anamorphosis.
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Introduction

During the Sixteenth century, the studies about perspective reach an higher level of systematization, so high to open their field of action to geographical and astronomic representations. In painting and ornamental art, especially, it starts to use a different way of perspective technique more cunning and provocative, according to the desire of contemporary artists and scientists to go beyond, across the limit of reality where ‘it shown only things that you can see’ for a fresh look – physical and symbolic - to the Other from her- or himself, to a new and more exciting overlook in which “…the appearance eclipses the reality”. The more odd and bizarre aspects of the perspective rules’ turn into the aim of research, where its interior laws are taken to an extreme level and are employed to verify the expressive prospect of the same technique, beyond any restitution of realistic appearance to the represented subject, organic or not. It is so the time of anamorphosis.

Anamorphosis are indissolubly related – even in their geometric genesis, that in their fruition – to the rules of linear perspective (perspectiva artificialis); they can be consider as mastery expression of the perspective rules in their own, representing a sort of a projective ‘depravation’. Complying with the representative rules established by Leon Battista Alberti (1435) and Piero della Francesca’s (1472 ca.) treaties, the anamorphic image discern to exceed a primary need, typical of Renaissance Art, to match representation’s space with that one of natural optical experience; indeed, even if it’s geometrically correct, it is shown to the audience as a graphic charades where specific representational choices reinforce the strength of mystic symbolism, even ritual-magical, linked to a so distort images. The goal of the essay is to examine how, between the XVI and XVII century, those image’s proto-projective deformation system, even more than producing a series of anamorphic images of extreme figurative and symbolic interest, have been the starting point of the long and passionate Baroque research about the architectural space’s deformation systems, moving the comparable projective notions from the two-dimensions of picture plane toward the Cartesian space.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Visual Angle: The angle subtended at the eye, by the limits of perspective. The measure of this angle corresponds to the side of the observed space, and its dimension depends on the main distance (distance from the iconic picture).

Perspectival Restitution: Inverse operation to perspective, through which it is possible to identify, thanks to geometrical constructions, the internal and external orientation of the perspectival image, and infer the correspondent Mongian projections.

Marginal Aberrations: It is an effect of distortion in the perspectival images caused by the represented object being beyond the limits of the visual field.

Anamorphosis: Correspondence obtained by projecting from a projection center the points of a figure, belonging to a given plane, on a flat surface portion (but not orthogonal to the optical axis) or on a curved one. The result is a figure corresponding point to point to the original, but deformed respect to this. The correct view is possible from a single point of view (coincident with the center of projection), resulting rather distorted and incomprehensible when viewed from other locations. It was very popular in the XVI and XVII centuries.

Vanishing Point: From the perspectival point of view, the vanishing point is the point towards which the parallel lines seem to converge. In particular, the vanishing point of a straight line r is a point F on the projection plane, common to the perspective images of each straight line parallel to the one considered. In other words, the vanishing point of a straight line is the projection of its improper point (or the point at infinity, or direction).

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