Essay on Illusionistic Ceiling Painting of the Seventeenth Century

Now You See It…Now You Don’tIllusionistic Ceiling Painting of the Seventeenth CenturyIntroduction:

Webster’s dictionary defines illusion as a “perception of something objective existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature”. In Europe during the seventeenth century, or the Baroque era, certain artistic implementations of spatial illusion were established. The influence of perception was deteriorating and being questioned. Artists of the time reacted suitably with paintings and structures intended to fool the eye, the literal meaning of trompe l’oeil. This style, not new by any means, was revived in Baroque art, giving the viewer pause to ask “Is this real?” as well as to cause a sense of wonderment at the artist’s mastery in piquing ones senses in the first place.

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At the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture, Abraham Bosse, one of it’s founders, stressed the importance of the use of geometry and even went so far as to define perspective and provide rigorous criteria for successful paintings. In the genre of ceiling painting, these standards were essential. Bosse emphasized that perspective was a first principle in any painting, and illusionistic ceiling painting would only result from following stringently to the precept of perspective. Illusionism is not a gauge of correctness, but would have to conform strictly to a perspective construction to be so designated. Bosse further defined that the application of perspective in the “anatomy” of the painting was a critical measure wherein one discovers that the vanishing point falls outside (above) the ceiling painting.

Heinrich Wolfflin said of Baroque ceiling painting that it was characterized by its creation of an illusion of …

…s, deceiving the eye and redefining the context of spatial perception.Sources:Title: Baroque Architecture, Sculpture, and PaintingAuthor: Rolf TomanSource: Baroque Sculpture in Italy, France, and Central Europe, pp. 391Published by: Tandem Verlag, 2007

Title: The Catholic ReviewAuthor: Joseph ConnorsSource: The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 74, No. 4, (Oct. 1988), pp. 624-626

Title: Experienceing Architecture through Baroque Image: Painted Architecture as Architectural SpaceAuthor: Joao CabeleiraSource: The International Journal of the Image, Vol. 1, No. 2, (2011), pp.120-133Published by: Common Ground Publishing

Title: Studies in Seventeenth Century French Art Theory and Ceiling PaintingAuthor: Carl GoldsteinSource: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 2 (June, 1965), pp. 231-256,Publisher: College Art Association


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