RCUB: Available On the w@terfront 60/13 (VIDEO NR.)


Lino Cabezas Gelabert


The topic of this lecture is based on the concept of visual representation, analyzing it from the relationship between the methods of the geometric perspective, based on projective concepts and theorems versus the intuitive procedures argued in the visual observation and the intuitive experience, both related with the definition of style. In this relationship, the use and function of mirrors in the practice of painting and theoretical formulations are analyzed, in particular the case of the invention of perspective in the first Renaissance.


First Renaissance; perspective; mirror; painting; theory


Joaquim Sunyer (1874-1956) Catalan painter and engraver, lived in Paris between 1896 and 1913, integrated into the group of Spanish painters: Picasso, Iturrino, Canals, etc., which were formed there absorbing the artistic novelties.

In the French capital he developed an excellent way to work etching and aquatint and above all, he experimented with etching in color, which is why we have to situate him – to our knowledge, until now this part of his work is not justly recognized and valued – as the best Catalan engraver, and, by extension, Spanish of his time.

The engravings created in Paris have in common the representation of aspects of daily life, highlighting a good group of urban views most of which have been identified.

He shows the different environments of public streets and gardens and the variety of social strata that flowed in the Paris of the turn of the century. He represents a public space, sometimes of typical and popular character like the Paris of the photographs of Atget, other of more naturalistic environment, that, altogether, manages to add to the quality and the impact of the creative experience through a renewed traditional medium like engraving, a true social and urban testimony.


Paris; Joaquim Sunyer; Etching; aquatint; colour; urban scenes


A large part of visual travel guides and tourist maps that are published today incorporate in the representation of cities, itineraries and buildings the use of parallel perspectives (isometry, axonometry: cavalier perspective, military, transoblique) contributing in these images a large amount of spatial and metric information instantaneously. The choice of this graphic language responds to formal and functional characteristics that have been configured as the most appropriate through centuries of evolution and whose solutions converge, among other fields, from: pictorial practice, representation of the territory and civil engineering and military as well as architecture.

In this contribution, we analyze through a selection of examples, the historical evolution of representation systems linked to the “portrait of the city” and the different resolutions that artists use to generate the spatial illusion in the viewer of architectures and their most characteristic elements: walls, towers, cathedrals, bridges, unique buildings …

In this broad journey where the rules that govern the different representative systems will be consolidated, the solutions are in many cases hybrid, until their formulation as graphic languages: while the conical perspective is theorized by L.B. Alberti in 1435, the isometric perspective is postulated by W. Farish in 1822.

Thus, in the representations it is common to use the conic projection in the corographs and panoramas of cities in the field of “map painters” with magnificent examples in the sixteenth century, while the parallel perspective (soldier or military) is strengthened in the field of engineering and architecture (present in engineering treatises since the mid-fifteenth century). And there are many examples where the presence of certain licenses allows different projective systems and mixed solutions adapting the representation to the overall effect or to the highlighting of significant elements over others.

The historical baggage of the parallel perspective goes back to the origins of representation systems in their development as a graphic language. The course of history has traditionally linked parallel perspectives with representations of a technical nature, given their functionality, in fields such as: architecture, civil and military engineering, technology and crafts, contributing to the immediate visualization and the great advantage of Proportional conservation of measures. While, for those representations of a more optical nature, the perspective of the painter, the conical perspective, has been shaped as the most akin to the visual experience of the viewer and historically, from its theoretical formulation in the Renaissance through L.B. Alberti, became the hegemonic language of the Western world.

The denominations that designate the parallel perspectives reflect, by contrast, the preponderance of the conic representation and even reach a certain negative connotation: anomalous perspectivespre-perspectives, anti-perspectives, inverted perspectives … that join the oldest denominations: soldatesca prospettiva , prospettiva piu comune, prospettiva militare and, finally, consolidate throughout the 19th century: isometric perspective, axonometry, transoblique,. (Being rejected even by painters in recent dates until its rereading by the historical Vanguards).

However, in the representation of the cities, the parallel perspective has been consolidated as an effective resource given its descriptive character together with the functional one that implies the correspondence of measurements between the drawing and the represented reality.

In this contribution, we analyse through a selection of examples, the historical evolution of representation systems linked to the “portrait of the city” and the different resolutions that artists use to generate in the viewer the spatial illusion of the architectures and their most characteristic elements: walls, towers, cathedrals, bridges, singular buildings.

They are taken into consideration referents of mural painting of Hellenic tradition, examples of more orientalising character linked to Byzantine art, assuming an important turning point the appearance of the Sienese school in Italy since the fourteenth century as is the case of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and his “Allegory of good government” (1338-1340), the “Città sul il mare” by SG Sasetta (1420-5 ca.), the “Veduta de Venezia” by Jacopo di Barbari (1500), the transition to Platforms such as the of Granada made by Ambrosio de Vico (1614) or the Plan of Madrid by Texeira (1654-6).

While the theory of the procedure goes through the theoretical works of G. Maggi and J. Castriotto (1538), B. Lorini (1596), Jean du Breuil (1642), Abraham Bosse (1665), Vicente Tosca (1707-15) finally lead to the publication of the “On Isometrical Perspective” by William Farish in 1822 that is disseminated thanks to the contributions of T. Soptwith, J. Jopling, G. Codazza and Q. da Sella. While axonometry is developed by Weisbach, 1844 in “Die Monodimetrishe und axonometrische projectionsmethode”.

The representation of the city raises an important balance between the difference what is supposed  “represent to see and represent to know”.


Parallel perspective; representation of the city; Veduta; Platform; Corography; A. Lorenzetti; S. G. Sasetta; J. Barbari; A. Bosse; V. Tosca.

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