Quadratura Painting - Projection of (Im)Possible Spaces. On the Baroque Roots of the Virtual

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Malarstwo kwadraturowe - projekcja przestrzeni (nie)możliwych. O barokowych korzeniach wirtualności

Quadratura Painting - Projection of (Im)Possible Spaces. On the Baroque Roots of the Virtual

In art history there are fascinating pictures which deceive us with the illusion of images walking out of their frames. The most spectacular phenomena in this field include quadratura painting: baroque wall painting, whose "visions" walk beyond architectural limits into the imaginary space: virtual but interpreted as real.

The desire to attain an illusion of the full-size world using painting means appeared already in Roman antiquity. More tangible roots of the quadratura painting can be found in the fifteenth-century Renaissance painting and in the sixteenth-century Mannerist painting. The proper history of quadratura painting begins in the seventeenth century, and reaches its height in the late seventeenth century and in the next one. The nineteenth century is the epigone period of this style. The Baroque quadratura painting, deprecated during the Classicist period, disappeared after steel was introduced into architecture in the nineteenth century. Attempts to revive it during the Neo-baroque and Neo-Rococo went unheeded. It is only today, in the era of simulators and virtual art, that quadratura painting began to focus vivid interest on it, especially by media scholars and artists.

Despite its excellent source bases the phenomenon of quadratura painting still poses interpretive difficulties. There are even uncertainties about the etymology of the concept. The present paper points to a trail found in the theoretical treatises of the period, which shows the relationships of the quadratura painting with the then newly introduced projection geometry and the related mathematical concept of quadratura, which appeared at the close of the sixteenth century. The author points out that the quadratura painting combines not only different conventions of illusionist painting but it merges with illusionist architecture and the art of scenography. It uses in an original way the hybrid perspective (characteristic of the seventeenth century) of building the space of side stage, which combines perspectivae artificialis with their opposite - perspectivae naturalis. The present study interprets quadratura painting not only in its relationship with architecture but it also sees it as a non-historical problem theme of Gesamtkunstwerk, in association with other components of the baroque topos of theatrum mundi, which treats being as a total or comprehensive work of art.

From this point of view, quadratura painting appears to be an efficient instrument for the self-staging of political programmes in a baroque absolutist Europe, which operates according to the interpretation of the methodology of baroque rhetoric and appeals first of all to the senses of the spectators in order to thereby impress them, and make them internally moved and convinced.


Annales UMCS, Artes

The Journal of Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

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