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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

9 - The dawn of perspective


Oh, che dolce cosa è questa prospettiva!

Paolo Uccello, quoted in (Vasari, 1991: 83)

Perspective is to Painting what the bridle is to a horse, and the rudder to a ship.

Leonardo da Vinci (2002: §113)

Figure 9.1 shows a photograph taken by Edward Weston in 1937 of a tomato field on the Monterey Coast of California. The multitude of tomato shrubs draws a pattern that we quickly identify (disregarding imperfections on the placement of individual shrubs) as a wallpaper and it is the contrast between this pattern and the gently irregular landscape of the hill in the background that, most probably, first attracts the eye.

This impression of regularity that we identify with a wallpaper pattern is, however, put to test by the fact that the image does not evenly spread the shrubs: those in the lower part are separated by bigger distances in the surface of the photograph than those close to the hill. This is certainly in contrast with the wallpapers shown, for instance, in Figures 3.12, 3.13, 4.20 and 6.5.

The reasons for this disagreement come quickly to mind, and one may express them with several wordings: the distances in the plane where the tomato shrubs grow are not respected in the plane of the picture, distant objects appear smaller than ones close to the observer, or (encompassing the previous phrases in a common expression) the picture shows the landscape in perspective.

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Manifold Mirrors
  • Online ISBN: 9781139014632
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