The linear perspective

3d model and reconstruction

The linear perspective

Reconstruction of how Brunelleschi’s tablet worked.

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Short history of

The linear perspective

The great spatial revolution which started in the first decades of the Renaissance is closely connected with the development of perspective, an instrument with huge creative potential. The primacy of perspective and architectonic drawing for the creation of an illusory space lasted throughout the Renaissance in all of the arts, and most notably in architecture.

The choice of the central perspective, starting in Florence around 1425, by Masaccio and Brunelleschi, allowed for a depiction on new scientific bases of the three dimensions and of the volume ratios between spaces, thus changing perception and expression concepts: it was a quantum leap in the shift from the science of vision to that of representation.

The geometric-mathematical rules which allow for a reproduction of objects on a flat surface, therefore a perspective seen as the converging of depth lines drawn from a unified vanishing point (linear perspective), were “invented” by Brunelleschi who, between 1401 and 1409 approx., exemplified them in the famous tables showing the Baptistery in Piazza della Signoria.

The two tablets, now lost but mentioned in several biographical sources, showed a view of Piazza della Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia, and a view of the Baptistery through the central door of the Cathedral. In Brunelleschi’s perspective tablet, humans are always the authors and creators of the representation of reality, they are the point of view. The observer, standing at the back of the panel, had to look through a hole at the center of the tablet behind which the image is presented through a mirror, placed before the tablet so as to reflect the surface of the painted side, thus experimenting with the laws of perspective and demonstrating the existence of a vanishing point. To make the perspective demonstration even more effective, Brunelleschi covered with burnished silver the area of the tablet corresponding to the sky, so that the real one would be reflected in it with its clouds, increasing the depth effect in the third dimensions of the architectonic elements depicted.