• Perspective



Kim H. Veltman

Perspective, Anamorphosis and Vision

Marburger Jahrbuch, Marburg, Vol. 21, (1986), pp. 93-117.

1. Introduction
2. Survey of Literature
3. Looking from the Side
4. Perspective and Anamorphosis
5. Origins of Anamorphosis
6. Anamorphosis and Alternatives to Linear Perspective
7. Anamorphosis, Mirrors and Special Devices
8. Surveying and Perspective
9. Surveying, Perspective and Cylindrical Projections
10. Optics versus Perspective
11. Conclusions

1. Introduction
In order to view properly a painting in linear perspective we need to stand with an eye at the height of the picture's horizon level, directly in front of its central vanishing point and at a distance equal to that indicated by its distance point (figs. 1-5). By contrast, if a painting is in anamorphosis1 we need to view it from a position off to the side (to the right in the case of fig. 19). Most of us simply take these rules for granted.

This essay opens with a survey of literature con-firming that the realities of pictorial composition are more complex. Classic examples of linear perspective including Piero della Francesca's Flagellation are then re-examined. It is demonstrated that such paintings can also profitably be viewed from positions off to the side. It is claimed that Renaissance paintings with a central vanishing point were intended to be seen from multiple points of view, and not just from directly in front.

A contrast follows between undesired distortions of linear perspective and planned distortions in anamorphosis. This leads to an outline history of anamorphic and nonlinear projection methods, including the use of mirrors and other devices.

Connections between optics, surveying and cylindrical projection methods are examined as are discrepancies between theories of vision and representation overlooked by Panofsky and other cultural historians. The significance of Renaissance linear perspective (and anamorphosis) is then reassessed.

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