Perspective as Practice. Renaissance Cultures of Optics

This summer Brepols Publishers will publish Perspective as Practice. Renaissance Cultures of Optics, edited by Prof Sven Dupré (Art History).

This book is about the development of optics and perspective between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The point of departure of this book is the recognition of the polysemy of perspective, that is, the plurality of meanings of perspective. To bring forward the polysemy of perspective, this book explores the history of perspectiva in terms of practices, a conglomerate of material, social, literary and reproductive practices, through which knowledge claims in perspective were produced, promoted, legitimated and circulated in and through a variety of sites and institutions.

Optical knowledge

The ways optical knowledge was used by different groups in different places (such as the university classroom, the anatomist’s dissection table, the goldsmith’s workshop, and the astronomer’s observatory) defined the meanings of Renaissance perspective. As this period was characterized by widespread ‘optical literacy’, perspective was defined in different ways in different places and sites by various groups of practitioners.

Prof. dr. Sven Dupré
Prof. dr. Sven Dupré


Most interestingly, sites such as the theatre, the instrument maker’s workshop and the courtly garden were home to practices of perspective which have remained on the margin, or even completely invisible, in the historiographies of optics and perspective. The book also brings out the differences between codifications of perspectiva and practice. There were a variety of non-Albertian constructions to create the illusion of space, and other types of optical knowledge were as important to artists as the geometry of perspective.

The book will be presented 12-15 June at the eighth annual Scientiae conference, which is being held at Queen’s University in Belfast.