The different pictorial perspectives

Perspective doesn't just show, it thinks.

Hubert Damisch (1)

In this chapter you will find perspectives, 6 pages:

Perspective 1 - Perspective 2 - Perspective with Fra Angelico - Narrative perspective with Léonard De Vinci -

Singular perspective with Beruguette - Playful perspective


I would not speak here of all the forms of perspectives already perfectly described by the specialists, such as the cavalier perspective, the perspective of depth, the atmospheric perspective made of gradations of colors, etc.

Everyone interested in pictorial art has heard of perspective, even without knowing the details. The principle of a representation of depth with a horizon line and a focal point is a given for all.


The perspective artificialis , was invented and demonstrated by the Florentine architect and painter Filippo Brunelleschi in 1415.

I only wish to approach here the perspective drawn in two dimensions of real architecture in three dimensions.

However, the well-established knowledge of this technique, but so little rigorously checked on the paintings, has led to missing unsuspected messages from some Renaissance painters for whom the narrative aspect was more important than the respect of 'a technique.

Aside from the aerial perspective and the depth perspective, as well as a minority genre that I would describe as a playful perspective, there are, according to my research, three types of 2D representation of volumes in ancient painting:

1 - Empirical perspective

Although there is a desire to represent space, the lines of flight are approximate, there is no horizon line.

Below, a Greek crater of the Niobids (IV ° BC), and Van Der Weyden (1399 - 1464), seem to be groping without having a precise rule.

This perspective which is called in Latin "the crossing view ", allows to retrace backwards the composition of the painter. We can clearly see that the perspective lines do not respond to a rigorous technique

Art grec - Cratère des Niobides - Louvre
Van der Weyden pas de perspec_edited.jpg

Empirical perspective with a painted crater of the Niobites - IV ° BC - and with Van der Weyden - 15th century.

2- Linear perspective


Bicci's geometric technique of representing space is perfect: the vanishing lines (in blue for the sky, green for the ground) all converge on a single focal point which determines a horizon line.

The first geometric and mathematical explanation of perspective is given by Léon Battista Alberti (1406-1472) in his treatise De Pictura (1435).

BICCI Perspective monofocale

3 - Narrative perspective

Strictly speaking, it is no longer a rigorous technique, but rather a mode of expression that plays with rigid rules to give the feeling of other dimensions.

For example the painter Del COSSA uses a technique in progress in his time with two horizon lines, one for the sky (blue), one for the earth (green). The idea was not to be limited to the technique and to enrich it in order to feed the purpose of the work. Here the idea would be to establish a link between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and the human with the birth of a divine being symbolized here by the column.

See the page: See slowly with the snail.

DEL COSSA, Annonciation, perspective narrative à deux lignes d'horizon.

I suggest you start this exploration of the narrative perspective on the following page:


with the Annunciation of the painter Raphaël.

1: Hubert Damisch - The origin of perspective - 2012 - Flamarion, Paris