Seeing History: Is perspective learned or natural?

Just one of the many wonderful essays on art history over at Eclectic Light … this one a before-during-after on perspective

The Eclectic Light Company

Not all images are intended to have a dual nature, and for a long time, prior to the Renaissance in Europe, many works of visual art appear to have been intended to be arrangements of flat symbols, closer to writing than to realist painting.

viennagenesis Unknown, Rebecca and Eliezer, page in The Vienna Genesis (c 525 CE), tempera, gold, and silver paint on purple-dyed vellum, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. Wikimedia Commons.

The objects depicted within this miniature, telling the story of Rebecca and Eliezer at the well, are not scaled relative to their physical size, only placed in depth order. Relative size is one of the most basic and strongest clues which visual perception uses to interpret 2D images into 3D, and was thoroughly understood long before ancient Roman and Greek art.

anonromanwall Artist not known, (Urban Scene) (c 50-40 BCE), fresco, cubiculum, Villa of P. Fannius Synistor, Boscoreale, Italy, now in The…

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