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Circling Round Vitruvius, Linear Perspective, and the Design of Roman Wall Painting

Department of Art History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
Mail: 890 West End Avenue, Apartment 4C, New York, NY 10025-3520, USA.
Arts 2019, 8(3), 118; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8030118
Received: 1 April 2019 / Revised: 26 August 2019 / Accepted: 2 September 2019 / Published: 14 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ancient Mediterranean Painting (vol. 2))
Many scholars believe that linear perspective existed in classical antiquity, but a fresh examination of two key texts in Vitruvius shows that 1.2.2 is about modularity and symmetria, while 7.Pr.11 describes shading (skiagraphia). Moreover, these new interpretations are firmly based on the classical understanding of optics and the history of painting (e.g., Pliny the Elder). A third text (Philostratus, Imagines 1.4.2) suggests that the design of Roman wall painting depends on concentric circles. Philostratus’ system is then used to successfully make facsimiles of five walls, representing Styles II, III, and IV of Roman wall painting. Hence, linear perspective and its relatives, such as Panofsky’s vanishing vertical axis, should not be imposed retrospectively where they never existed. View Full-Text
Keywords: linear perspective; skenographia; skiagraphia; Greek and Roman painting; Roman fresco; Vitruvius; Philostratus linear perspective; skenographia; skiagraphia; Greek and Roman painting; Roman fresco; Vitruvius; Philostratus
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Small, J.P. Circling Round Vitruvius, Linear Perspective, and the Design of Roman Wall Painting. Arts 2019, 8, 118.

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