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Paolo Uccello | Obsessed With Perspective

Paolo Uccello, scene from The Battle of San Romano

Niccolò da Tolentino Leads
the Florentine Troops
(Battle of San Romano)

by Paolo Uccello
1450s, tempera on wood, 182 x 320 cm
National Gallery, London

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The Florentine painter Paolo di Dono is better known as Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), and his masterworks are his history paintings of The Battle of San Romano. These dramatic tempera renderings by Uccello were probably commissioned for the Palazzo Medici in Florence. Like other Early Italian Renaissance artists such as Brunelleschi, Masaccio, and Ghiberti, Paolo was fascinated by the problem of perspective. In Uccello's San Romano works, the warriors with their jutting lances remind us of medieval chivalric compositions in which the figures are stiff-limbed and wooden looking. Paolo Uccello attempted to make his figures protrude from the flat picture plane, largely by use of strong contrast in light and dark elements rather than three-dimensional modelling. Paolo Uccello's carousel horses and cartoonish figures are highly ornamental, Gothic in style in their use of decorative detailed surface texture.

Paolo Uccello had a keen interest in applied geometry and perspective. 

A very talented artist, Paolo Uccello was reportedly obsessed with applied geometry and the new perspective, spending many hours rendering various object in foreshortening. Uccello's depiction of a fallen figure on the ground is impressive and the first of its kind, probably causing quite a sensation among artists at the time. Paolo's use of perspective is further demonstrated by his depiction of broken lances on the ground all pointing toward a common vanishing point on the stage-like battlefield.

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

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