De Prospectiva Pingendi

De Prospectiva Pingendi Facsimile Edition

Italy — 1472–1475

The art of technology or the technology of art: Piero della Francesca's new geometric perspective in 100 illustrations

  1. Piero della Francesca, a renowned Italian artist, established a new basis for geometric perspective

  2. The reader is gradually introduced to the technique through a series of increasingly difficult problems

  3. 100 illustrations are accompanied by questions and answers in the beautiful and instructive manuscript

De Prospectiva Pingendi

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  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
De Prospectiva Pingendi

De prospectiva pingendi or “On the Perspective of Painting” is a late-15th century manuscript by the great artist and mathematician Piero della Francesca that takes a scientific approach to the use of perspective in art and explains it in a simple and straightforward manner. This manuscript is one of only three autographs from Piero himself, who not only served as both scribe and illustrator but also made corrections and added marginal notes to the text, indicating this was a work in progress. Although furnished with a Latin title, the text of the work is written in Italian and addresses the subjects of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry with respect to their artistic applications. It is distinguished as the only treatise devoted solely to the subject of artistic perspective that predates the year 1500 and was influential on subsequent works.

De Prospectiva Pingendi

Although Renaissance art may have originated as a revival of classical tendencies, it soon improved on the art of antiquity by incorporating both the innovations of Gothic art from Northern Europe and new developments in scientific knowledge. The resulting style was beautiful and realistic in equal manner. Renaissance artists seemed to compete with one another for who could create the most perfect architectures, natural landscapes, and accurate representations of the human form.
Piero della Francesca (ca. 1415–92) sought to explain how mathematical principles could be applied to art in a first of its kind work and can thus be regarded as one of the fathers of technical drawing. The text was first composed ca. 1472–75, but this manuscript may date to as late as 1482. More than 100 technical diagrams illustrate the theoretical text on solid geometry and perspective, which takes a gradual approach to the revolutionary new material.

A Patient Approach

Unlike many contemporary works, Piero’s treatise is purely mathematical in nature and is entirely free of allegory. It is divided into three books: Disegno, techniques for painting faces; Commensurazio, which describes various perspectives; Coloro, for creating perspective with color. This structure is based on the 1435 treatise De pictura by Leon Battista Agnese (1404–72), but Pieoro’s tone is clearer, more sober, practical, and specific.
After having started by addressing the question of what perspective is, the texts and the accompanying diagrams start from the most basic principles and build on them until the most complicated techniques are clearly understood. The greatest attention is paid to the second section, which details the projection of surfaces, geometric bodies, and more complicated volumes such as body parts as well as investigating the scientific basis for representing them.

A Cornerstone of Western Art

Piero della Francesca’s practical treatise enjoyed immediate success among the artistic community and had a lasting impact on future generations of artists. The more famous mathematical text Divina proportione by Luca Pacioli (ca. 1447–1517) discusses Piero’s use of perspective and even plagiarized it – both men were born in the Tuscan town of Borgo Santo Sepolcro, called Sansepolcro today. Building on these works, Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), a close friend of Pacioli’s, wrote his collections of notebooks generally referred to as “On Painting”.
These were assembled into a single treatise, Trattato della pittura by his apprentice and heir, Francesco Melzi (1491–1570). It was first published in France in 1632 and 1651 before being rediscovered in the Vatican Library and published in its modern form in 1817. Thus, the principles and techniques regarding perspective and solid geometry first established by Piero della Francesca in the late-15th century were passed down through various other works and continued to be influential well into the modern era.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
On the Perspective for Painting
De la perspective en peinture
Della prospettiva del dipingere
Über die Perspektive in der Malerei
Origin
Italy
Date
1472–1475
Language
Illustrations
100 drawings
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
De Prospectiva Pingendi – Ms. Regg. A 41/2 – Biblioteca Panizzi (Reggio Emilia, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: 999 copies

De Ludo Scachorum – ms. 7955 – Archivio Coronini Cronberg (Gorizia, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: not limited
Single Page

De Prospectiva Pingendi

Ionic Columns

The Ionic is the second chronologically of the classical orders of architecture and is also the stylistic middle point between the relatively austere Doric and elaborate Corinthian orders. It is identifiable by the prominent volutes of its capital and has the narrowest columns of the classical orders.

The perspectival considerations when drawing an Ionic column are artfully illustrated here by the masterful hand of Piero della Francesca. The volutes are first presented in a simple side view, then from above in a far more complex drawing accounting for the curves of the various sides because although they were originally flat, they had to be angled to make them appear more even from various angles.

De Prospectiva Pingendi (Special Collections Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 De Prospectiva Pingendi (Special Collections Edition)

Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008

Publisher: Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Seasoned beechwood boards and brass clasps with a spine made from sheep leather Presented with the commentary volume in an embossed black canvas case
Commentary: 1 volume (270 pages) by Massimo Mussini and Luigi Grasselli
Languages: English, Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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#2 De Prospectiva Pingendi (Circulating Stacks Edition)

Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008

Publisher: Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: not limited
Binding: Paperboards covered with canvas Housed with the commentary volume in a black leather slip case with gold embossing
Commentary: 1 volume (270 pages) by Massimo Mussini and Luigi Grasselli
Languages: English, Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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