Colosseum. A projecting cornice completes the building. Not all Renaissance palaces use the classical
orders. The Medici Palace, built about ten years earlier than the Palazzo Rucellai, has few classical details
on the exterior (these are reserved for the courtyards), but still conveys the order and stability seen in the
Palazzo Rucellai.
MASACCIO
AND
PERSPECTIVE
The most important painting innovation in fifteenth-century Italy was the development of the system of
linear perspective. Other artists, as far back as the Greeks and Romans, tried to create an illusion of three-
dimensional space in painting and achieved some success. But artists had a hard time painting architectural
forms because lines receding in space appeared angled in ways that were contrary to fact. Some artists
realized that these lines, called orthogonals, seemed to come together toward the middle of the painting.
It was only around 1425, however, that a system of linear perspective, with all lines converging on a single
vanishing point, was demonstrated.
The person who discovered linear perspective was Brunelleschi. He demonstrated how the system works
on a small panel painting depicting the piazza in front of Florence Cathedral. Although Brunelleschi’s
painting has disappeared, we can see the system at work in the frescoes by Masaccio done around the same
time. Masaccio’s Trinity includes architectural forms that look like Brunelleschi’s, who may have had a
direct hand in the work. If you extend the straight lines of the coffered vault, they will meet at a point near
the base of the cross. Similarly, lines drawn from the edge of the tomb below will meet at the same point.
The point corresponds to the line of sight of an average-height viewer. Seen from this spot, the Trinity
appears to be set on a platform within a chapel that recedes into the wall.
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