In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

way of depicting theworld. Thisdebateis of importance, also, to some present-day practicing artists, who areconcerned with finding new ways of using traditional perspective techniques. Faced with this massive literature, one might easilywonder if it is possible to say anything new about perspective. Michael Kubovy is a psychologist, but he has taken care to master the art historical literature. This clearly written, wellillustrated book provides the best introduction I have read to the central problems. Startingwith a highly original interpretation of Mantegna’s Archers Shooting at Saint Christopher in which, Kubovy argues, the arrow entering the eyeof the watching king is a metaphorfor the art of perspective, he offers an account of Brunelleschi’s pioneering experimentation with perspective, trompe Z’oeil baroque ceilings, the effects of seeing perspectival pictures from ‘offcenter ’ positions, the highly complex perspective of Leonardo’s Last Supper, and a critique of Nelson Goodman’s claim that perspective is merely a convention. This wide-ranging study combines art historical observations, appeal to experimental psychology and concern with the philosophical literature in a text which is at once erudite and not needlessly difficult to read. Precisely because Kubovy’s book is so clear, it deserves lengthy critical discussion . Here I merely point to some points which will, I hope, be taken up at greater length by other writers. His account of Mantegna’s art relies,as far as I can see, entirely on the claim that the painting illustrates in a very literal way one phrase in Alberti’s On Painting. This imaginative interpretation deserves consideration by art historians, who will note that it is not supported by the older literature on that artist [2]. In his discussion of why perspectival images appear ‘correct’ when viewed from ‘wrong positions’ Kubovy offers some highly interesting recent experimental data which will not, I fear, convince Goodman, whose subtle argument is not entirely answered by this analysis. Goodman, Kubovy arguesina somewhat ungrammatical sentence, can respond to this analysis only by claiming “that what perception can do depends on what it learned to do, and ...there is no limit to what perception can learn. But that argument isfalse.” But Goodman has not denied that some representational conventions are simpler, more convenient or easier to learn than others. The deepest problem with perspective is not, I think, touched upon in this book. Why, after such an extended debate, has it not been possible to achieveagreement about how perspective works?Sometime ago the editors of Leonardo found themselves so deluged by articles on perspective that they proposed, informally , a moratorium on further debate; this policy seemswise, sincewhat nobody has yet been able to explain is why some basic questions about the status of perspective remain unanswered. What is needed, I believe,issomeaccount which not only answers these questions, but explains why this debate has for so long remained unresolved. The real controversy between Gombrich and Goodman cannot, their argument suggests , be solvedby appeal to experimental data. Could any psychological evidence whatsoever provide an answer to these questions which will satisfy both the philosophers and the art historians? If not, then what philosophical or historical argumentation is relevantto the problem? A fully satisfying account, I suspect, will need both to offer a solution to the problem and explain why until now art historians, philosophers and psychologists have been unable to agree about what evidence can solve the problem. Although Kubovy’s book does not answer this question, it does provide a compendium of the relevant information and so ought to contribute to the discussion and, hopefully, the resolution of this baffling problem. REFERENCESAND NOTES 1. There is no published translation of Panofsky’s book into English-although a widely used mimeographed version of the main passages exists-but it has been published in French as La perspective commeforme symbolique et autres essais, G. BallangC, trans. (Paris: tditions de Minuit, 1975). See also John White, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space (Boston: Boston Book and Art Shop, 1967); Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr., The Renaissance Rediscovery o f Linear Perspective (New York: Harper & Row, 1976); and, for a bibliography listing Gombrich’s many essays on this theme, D. Carrier, “Gombrich on Art Historical Explanations”, Leonardo 16, No...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 104-105
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.