A Renaissance-Era Textbook With Gorgeous Illustrations For Teaching Drawing
August 23, 2012
Images from La Perspective Curieuse by Jean François Niceron via BibliOdyssey
These illustrations are from the French monk Jean François Niceron’s magnum opus La Perspective Curieuse (The Strange Perspective), first published in 1638. Therein, he offers artists and architects lessons on catoptrics (the study of reflective phenomena) and anamorphosis (the study of images projected on curved surfaces or viewable only from certain points-of-view). With 42 mind-bending copper plate engravings, La Perspective Curieuse takes readers on a tour of various orthographic projections, and even teaches prospective fresco-painters how to make figures on vaulted ceilings seem undistorted. See more.
Part of the ‘Circle of Marsenne,’ Niceron was a contemporary of such Enlightenment heavyweights as Descartes and Fermat. Nonetheless, he ascribed some optical properties of perspective drawing to magic and mind-trickery. In any case, his engravings stand out not only as didactic tools but as works of art in and of themselves.