The Renaissance Perspective

The Lost Secret of the Old Masters

"Geometry is one of the handles of science and philosophy." - Xenocrates

Old Masters

Art and Science

Art and science nowadays are generally perceived as diverse disciplines and cooperation between them is quite limited. Although the latest developments seem to be improving, we are far from the situation that prevailed during the Italian Renaissance. At that time the differences between artists and scientists were not that sharply drawn. Innovative artists were able to design new tools, to invent their own technological processes. Leading personalities worked as engineers, scientists or artists at the same time and many were considered geniuses. Architects and builders guaranteed that holy temples for the gods and saints complied with the laws of geometrical proportions. They mastered their craft to perfection and thus significantly contributed to human knowledge. During the Renaissance period geometry was used not only for the symbolic purposes, but mainly for practical reasons. Architect Brunelleschi explored the principles of perspective and Piero della Francesca systematically applied them in his work. However, it seems, the first Renaissance painter who experimented with the perspective based on the golden ratio was a 14 years younger artist Antonello da Messina.

The scientists and artists have in common the hunger to uncover the unknown. They are trying to discover the laws of nature, they seek the universal order. The Renaissance masters took the nature and the world around them as a main source of artistic inspiration. Many of these old masters were employed by royalties for their creative talent and logical abilities, not for an ability to trace from projected images. It is unthinkable that they would be hunching over the camera lens.

The knowledge of the secret perspective system was their valued know-how and for obvious reasons it was never published. In spite of that the word about the secret geometrical system slowly spread out and at the Baroque time a number of its users culminated. To some of the painters the secret was handed over by their masters, some obtained hints from their colleagues and some of them figured it out themselves right from the beginning. In any case, this task demanded the great deal of concentration and mainly patience. Patience, because geometry brings endless possibilities one has to go through. Patience, which is such a rare and noble commodity in today's hurried society. This knowledge comes slowly and progressively thought out the course of years of intensive research, through the process of trial and error.  

With the invention of the photography and the onset of Impressionism the knowledge of geometry and perspective was no longer needed among artists. Later the Impressionists broke every rule of academic painting and the secret perspective system faded out to oblivion.


These artists knew and mastered the system of the Renaissance perspective

the list is not complete

Antonello da Messina, properly Antonello di Giovanni di Antonio, but also called Antonello degli Antoni[1] and Anglicized as Anthony of Messina (c. 1430 - February 1479), was a Sicilian painter from Messina, active during the Early Italian Renaissance. Unusually for a south Italian artist of the Renaissance, his work proved influential on...

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, March 5, 1696 - March 27, 1770), also known as Giambattista (or Gianbattista) Tiepolo, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice who painted in the Rococo style, considered important member of the 18th-century Venetian school. He was prolific, and worked not only in Italy, but also in Germany and...

Giovanni Antonio Canal (18 October 1697 - 19 April 1768),[1] commonly known as Canaletto (Italian: [kanaˈletto]), was a italian painter from the Republic of Venice, considered important member of the 18th-century Venetian school. Painter of city views or vedute, of Venice, Rome, and London, he also painted imaginary views (referred to as capricci),...

Tintoretto, born Jacopo Robusti;[1] late September or early October 1518[2] - 31 May 1594) was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Venetian school. His contemporaries both admired and criticized the speed with which he painted, and the unprecedented boldness of his brushwork. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il...

Leonardo, born in 1452, lived his life during the High Renaissance, moreover in its center, in the northern Italian city states. Indeed, he was, to a large extent, what we now call a Renaissance man: a man with a vast array of interests and knowledge. The extent of his skills is undoubtedly the first thing that interests us. He was...