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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Mirroring


.


St. Constantine's Victory over Maxentius (detail): Piero della Francesca, 1452-1466, fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo


One can almost imagine the artist lost in thought on the bridges over the Arezzo...-- Piero Bianconi, Piero della Francesca



That on the surface of the water
one should see the sky
and on the surface of the wall
one should see the sky
reflected on the surface of the water





St. Constantine's Victory over Maxentius (detail): Piero della Francesca, 1452-1466, fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo


(A recollection of Arezzo, 1964: to come out of the roaring midday sun into the cool quiet church and stare up through the scaffolding at what easily might have been a kind of heaven, slipped into the receding foreground vision at the center of The Victory of Constantine over Maxentius...)

16 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yes, it seems, in the worlds of our parallel universes --

"one should see the sky
reflected on the surface of the water"



11.17

light coming into sky above still black
plane of ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

to look with eye at such as
after, still the same

about itself, conception of
what, where in motion

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

lluvia said...

diferentes maneras de ver para el que mira

Julia said...

Lovely, Tom!

Have you seen AJP's Rorschach pictures of his lake today?
You two seem to be in a similar line of thought.

aditya said...

Great poem. That one should ... performs the act of pushing you right into a pit where great poems are being read.

Some real great posts at your blog Tom. Still to read them ..

abadguide said...

You, me & Piero, huh? Great minds... On his image, I would of course love to see what's no longer there, but it's pretty good the way it is too. Maybe the house wasn't as prominent before, and I love the way it's drawn.

Artur.

abadguide said...

My guess is that if you look down on the river in "real life", you don't get such attenuated reflections; they would be much more foreshortened unless you (the viewer) were standing closer to the water level. Which makes it all the more wonderful that what he's drawn works so well formally, pulling you in to the picture.

TC said...

Artur,

That makes sense.

I am certain that Piero would have appreciated your comment, and given it considerable thought.

Readers of this post will perhaps take as much pleasure as I did from Artur's own investigation, with photography, of this same area of perspectival projection.

As he suggests:

"I’ve found that the higher you’re standing above the waterline greater the asymmetry between the image and its reflection. It must be because you aren’t perpendicular to the image and its foreshortened reflection."

We know that Piero's passion for mathematics, in particular geometry and perspectival proportion -- linear perspective, and the perspectival projection of architectural forms -- was as powerful as his passion for painting, and that the one passion surely informed the other. He seems to have based his perspectival projections in part on the expectation that those who would view his paintings were also educated to some degree in the same sciences. In that sense his audience was probably more sophisticated at viewing and gauging proportions that an audience would be now. A smart audience usually assists the creation of smart art. But then too, it's also clear that perspective and mathematics in his paintings have both a personal and a lyrical value. Brains and beauty together, the total package.

As to the extensive damage to that fresco, particularly in that central area -- it is perhaps the most badly damaged of the frescos at San Francesco -- there exists a water-colour copy of the whole scene, done in 1840 by the German artist A. Ramboux for the Dusseldorf Academy, so that some idea of the missing parts may be gathered. But I am grateful that there has never been an attempt to "fill in the blanks" à la the Evans reconstruction at Crete. Curiously enough, it's the abstract patterns created by the damaged passages that enforces the striking "modernity" of the work. We seem to be able to relate to the fragmentary, the unfinished and the incomplete perhaps better than viewers (or artists) of Piero's time might have been able to do..

In any case, this central bit of the fresco, radiant with what Sir K. Clark called "the most perfect morning light in all Renaissance painting," is, as the scholar Bianconi suggested, "so resplendent with colour and rhythm that one barely perceives the cracks in the wall."

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for noting these ----

"the higher you’re standing above the waterline greater the asymmetry between the image and its reflection"

"so resplendent with colour and rhythm that one barely perceives the cracks in the wall."


11.18

light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, silver of planet above branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

as far as eye can reach, it
is exactly what I see

that is that, points toward
pointing that way, is

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
sunlit white gull gliding toward point

abadguide said...

Tom,

Many thanks for all this. I'll check out Herr Rimboux. The other thing about that detail you've got up of the house -- I mean, I'd love to be able to paint like that, but can you imagine doing it in fresco? Actually, I think that's the only way it could be done though, that or a little watercolour.

curtisroberts said...

The world within a world that you've revealed here ("what easily might have been a kind of heaven, slipped into the receding foreground vision at the center of The Victory of Constantine over Maxentius") is something I've never seen and don't think I would have guessed existed. I'm very glad to know about it now (and wish I could board a plane to Arezzo). Following through to look at AJP's pictures was great, though I don't care for cold weather either.

hardPressed poetry said...

The illusion of illusion, perhaps?

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Yes, as Curtis notes, ""what easily might have been a kind of heaven, slipped into the receding foreground vision" . . . .


11.19

grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed green of leaf on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

supposes a view of time, is
therefore a substance

that still in a way present,
more or less, connect

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

TC said...

I've been poking around trying to find those two sketches of The Victory of Constantine by Johann Anton Ramboux, which I remember seeing reproduced somewhere... so far however have managed only to entangle myself in the cobwebby Mists of Time, without turning up the reproductions. (Perhaps there still exist some things that are actually not online.)

But the search continues.

Meanwhile, here's a really interesting site devoted to image modeling from Piero della Francesca: The Legend of the True Cross.

One can get a great close-up glimpse of that central passage of the mural by checking out The Victory of Constantine--zoom view.

TC said...

The illusion of an illusion, almost certainly. Much like all else...

A little watercolour -- ah, yes.

A world within a world, sí.

"...as far as the eye can reach"

Lucy in the Sky said...

The mirrors of nature. What can be more beautiful and magical?

Robb said...

And then I get to this -- I know, out of order -- wow. And dranif. Thank you.