Devices for Representing Space

Perspective: a mathematical structure defining a box-like space which goes backward into the distance, developed in Italy in the 15th century. Leonardoís The Last Supper, 1485-7, demonstrates mathematical perspective. The artist drew diagonal lines, orthogonals, from the baseline to a point on the horizon. All objects included within the painting travel along these orthogonals resulting in their diminished scale and adding to the illusion of moving backward. It seems as if you could actually walk into that room. It has space to accommodate more people. Again refer to the photograph of the walkway in Beijing, China. We noticed that the edges of the walkway appeared to angle inward, making the walkway appear progressively narrower into the distance. That is an example of the illusion of orthogonals or parallax view. Leonardoís orthogonals are evident in the walls to left and right that pull the room inward and backward to the point on the horizon. Orthogonals are also included from the top down, within the patterned ceiling. If you were to take a ruler and follow these orthogonals inward from the baseline, walls, and ceiling, specifically where would they meet? The painting is so well designed, that they all would meet at a single point, just above Christís head.

 

LIGHTEN UP A LITTLE

The result of mathematical perspective is a believable room large enough to accommodate thirteen men around a table. As mathematical perspective can be drawn by anyone with a ruler and a basic knowledge of geometry, all painters could transform their flat paintings into depictions of three-dimensional spaces.