Illusions of Renaissance Art
An illusion is an image or trick that causes a person to perceive something which is not there.
[van Hoogstraaten's Peepshow Box]
[Pozzo's Church of St. Ignazio]
Brunelleschi's Peepshow (No, it's not what you think!)
Filippo Brunelleschi used his training as a gold smith
to apply a silver background on a painted panel, allowing the color of the sky and
passing clouds to become part of the painting as seen by the viewer. This was an attempt
at a perspective painting and interactive art. The panel was constructed with a hole at the
vanishing point. The reflection of the image was viewed in a mirror through the hole,
giving an illusion of depth.
van Hoogstraten's Peepshow Box
Samuel van Hoogstraten, a "Trompe l' oeil" artist, expanded upon Brunelleschi's
peepshow and created a series of peepshow boxes. The boxes were constructed of wood with one side
missing to allow light to enter. Small holes were made to view the panels. "Real space"
"painted space" because the viewer's line of sight was limited and opposite
the vanishing point. As demonstrated by the dog, images had to be distorted on different panels to maintain
the illusion of depth.
An anamorphic image is a distorted image that only looks right when viewed from a specfifc
angle or with the use of a device. Anamorphic images which had spiritual or
religious meanings were often "hidden" in paintings. Anamorphic images were the ancestors
of "curvilinear" pictures, which are distorted around a cylinder and can only be properly
seen in a mirrored cylinder.
Pozzo's Church of St. Ignazio
The dome and vault of the Church of St. Ignazio, painted by Andrea Pozzo,
represented the pinnacle of illusion.
Due to complaints
of blocked light by neighboring monks, Pozzo was commisioned to paint the inside of a dome instead
of constructing one. However, because it was flat, there was only one spot where the illusion was
perfect and the dome looked real. The vault, or main ceiling of the church, was also painted by
Pozzo. It was painted with a single vanishing point in the center of the ceiling, where the Son of God
and the heavens reside. This has the effect of drawing a person's vision from the active surroundings
to Jesus, the central focus of the piece. Once again, the perspective was so precise that the Vault was
meant to be viewed from a single spot. When positioned at that spot, the ceiling appeared to dissolve
away and the church walls seemed to literally stretch into heaven. However, if viewed from a different
spot, the picture seemed impossible; pillars appear to stretch at odd angles, people are leaning off
edges at impossible postures, and figures appeared distorted. To mark where the dome and vault were
to be viewed, two gold discs were installed on the floor at the proper points.
Continued on the Techniques Page