Art & Science
Perspective, Light, Rules
Pietro Accolti divided his treatise into 3 parts in which he explains the principles of the simple laws of perspective, of various solids and figures and of light and shade. The Italian author was known as a painter, a mathematician and an architect. He wrote his book using the knowledge from his diverse background and combined Art and Science to challenge classical and modern theories in the fields of vision, perspective and the importance of light sources.
In his work, Accolti doesn’t always follow the set rules of perspective and sometimes plays with foreshortening pictures within pictures or presents compositions with multiple vanishing points. Even though he sporadically mentions the common rules of perspective and light, he himself likes to challenge them. In doing so he hopes to open the mind of the students following his teachings while giving them as few restrictions as possible. For example, when discussing how to arrange figures in perspective he will first give a geometrical method, but then recommend a more practical method used by artists.
He compares different light sources with each other, distinguishing between stronger or weaker, parallel rays or point sources, solar or candlelight. He also criticizes contemporary authors on perspective for underestimating the importance of light and shadow. In the section of the book called “De lumi et ombre”, Accolti claims that the observations of two other authors (Barbaro and del Monte) are worthless because they are based on artificial light, such as torchlight or lamplight, the rays of which spread out pyramidally. But in his opinion a true painter should be able to imitate natural appearances, that is why he has to learn and understand natural light coming from the sun that has more parallel rays. that means that an accomplished artist should be knowledgeable in at least some scientific areas so that his art can be accurate.
Pietro Accolti is said to be part of the 17th-century revival of the Leonardesque ideal of scientific painting. He followed in Leonardo Da Vincis footsteps by combining the different fields of arts, science, and engineering. Like the famous inventor, he accompanies his writings with detailed drawings and schemes depicting his ideas and allowing the reader to gain a deeper understanding of his work. He aimed to show how theoretical and practical optics could be made accessible to painters who wanted to achieve illusions scientifically.