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Sculptural Seeing: Relief, Optics, and the Rise of Perspective in Medieval Italy

Sculptural Seeing: Relief, Optics, and the Rise of Perspective in Medieval Italy

Although perspective has long been considered one of the essential developments of Renaissance painting, this provocative new book shifts the usual narrative back centuries, showing that medieval sculptors were already employing knowledge of optical science, geometry, and theories of vision in shaping the beholder’s experience of their work. Meticulous visual analysis is paired with close readings of medieval texts in examining a series of important relief sculptures from northern and central Italy dating from the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries, including the impressive sculptural programs at the cathedrals of Modena and Ferrara, and the pulpits by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano at Pisa and Pistoia. Demonstrating that medieval sculptors orchestrated the reception of their intended religious and political messages through the careful manipulation of points of view and architectural space, Christopher R. Lakey argues that medieval practice was well informed by visual theory and that the concepts that led to the codification of linear perspective by Renaissance painters had in fact been in use by sculptors for hundreds of years.