Dr. Steve Arbury
Sacred Art Armatures
"Most paintings depart widely from their ideal geometry, and even myopically accurate constructions such as Carlo Crivelli’s Annunciation are ultimately rendered inaccurate by the limits of the medium or the steadiness of the artist’s hand, if not – as we will see – by larger ‘errors’. If brushwork is sloppy enough or if lines have been drawn freehand, it may not be easy to tell where the ruler should be set to trace the ideal geometry, but that, I would argue, is a secondary problem. What needs to be considered first is the possibility that no reconstruction is possible, however it is attempted. Castagno’s Last Supper (1447) is a well-known example of this kind of dilemma. Christ and his disciples sit in a simple box-shaped room, their haggard faces rehearsing the typical battle between expressive portraiture and the harsh grid of perspective. And the ‘box’ is a severe distraction, fraught with minutiae and ‘irrelevant’ inconsistencies." Elkins, James, The Poetics of Perspective, 1994, p. 220.
"However, there has also been a most unfortunate fashion for drawing lines over Piero’s pictures, with the purpose of exposing their alleged underlying geometric structure. . . [T]here has also been a most unfortunate fashion for drawing lines over Piero’s pictures, with the purpose of exposing their alleged underlying geometric structure On the whole, historians – mindful of the difficulty of proving a negative – have allowed these ideas to wither away rather than attempting a direct refutation. For the most part such ideas have indeed withered, under the combined onslaught of silence, change of fashion, and the occasional dismissive comment to the effect that if one draws so many lines and makes them thick enough some of them are bound to go through specific features in a photograph of, say, the façade of the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris. However, perhaps because of his reputation as a mathematician, this generally efficacious method of rubbish disposal seems not to have worked very well in regard to pictures by Piero della Francesca." Field, Piero della Francesca: A Mathematician's Art, p. 4.
Wherever possible, I have used images of artworks provided by the museum. The photos have not been resized. The armatures were created with Illustrator. All of the images in this paper are enlargeable. Links are underlined.
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