Participatory Art

Spencer continuously argues that the style of perspective art discussed pays symbolic homage to the monarchs of the time. Referencing figure 18, Spencer says in her conclusion, “by implying that the king is mindful of the optical knowledge required to create such mindful deceptions, the perspective box stands as a reminder to the public peeping in that the king was not only a patron of the arts and sciences, but intrinsic in their practice” (Spencer 199). Throughout her paper, Spencer uses historical analysis to connect the Church and the Monarchy with specific pieces of artwork.

Brusati conversely uses formal analysis to describe how this style of art was intended to include the viewer and create a more complete experience. Brusati would likely take exception to Spencer’s argument that this art was merely intended to showcase the power of the Sovereign. She sees this stylistic development as an attempt at including the onlooker in the scene and creating the fantasy of involvement for the sake of the viewer. Spencer says this was merely a tool of King Fredrick III to showcase his artistic and scientific prowess. The primary difference here is in Brusati’s use of formal analysis and Spencer’s use of historical analysis.

When describing figure six, Spencer says, “our lone eye goes largely unnoticed save for the attentive animals mirroring our gaze” (Spencer 191). In the painting below, notice the golden haired dog at the bottom right looking directly at us. Then move your vision slightly left of center to find the small white and brown dog also looking at us. The two dogs on the left are busy interacting with one another, but it’s clear that van Dalem is including the viewer in the painting. This subtle detail contributes to the fantasy that we are actually there viewing this scene from our own perspective and the dogs have noticed us.

This panting also makes excellent use of limited space to dramatize the size of the depicted scene. Notice the side entrances depicted right before the iron gates complete with a figure in motion walking into the building. The light from the windows draw our attention away from the limits of the building itself while intentionally neglecting to depict portions of the ceiling leave much to the imagination. Van Dalem also leaves the medal gate cracked and welcomes the viewer to the very far end of the building. This inclusive perspective accentuates the size and beauty of this church while establishing the viewer as a participant rather than a mere spectator.


Church Interior with Christ Preaching to a Congregation, Cornelias van Dalem, 1545-1570, oil on panel, 58.8cm x 92.7cm 


5 thoughts on “Participatory Art

  1. I’m noticing a really intestine shift in your thinking, or at least in what you’re choosing to write: from historical/contextual towards the formal and aesthetic! Am I right? You seem more interested here in Brusati’s framework than Spencer’s and you seem to find yourself defending the purely aesthetic purposes Vermeer and others were up to–involving the viewer in the action of viewing! This would be art at its purest form, right–regardless of context of the viewer or the artist? I’m intrigued. Also: I’m so glad you chose this as your example here, in that after spending two days at Universal Studios Hollywood experiencing all manner of super-cool 3D effects on their immersive “rides” (Harry Potter, Simpsons, Transformers, Minions, and even on the main studio lot tour) I was immediately struck here at a really compellingly artificial sense of perspective that really dramatizes the church’s architecture and frankly gave me a little bit of that vertigo I felt “playing” virtual Quidditch at Universal. I can’t speak to what is technically going on here, but the perspective seems somewhat forced to me, exaggerating the distances between arches, maybe? The deep shadows to the left and right, highlighted by bright light streaming in to illuminate the complex structure further amplifies this feeling of movement, or that my eyes are seeing beyond what they normally could do in real life. You’re absolutely right that van Dalem is packing in more space than he has space for here–both in depth and in the gesture towards breadth and what is beyond the frame. It’s like he has created actual space where there was none before. I literally felt it looking at this for the first time.

    As far as your essay, perhaps it might be worth pursuing your seeming (maybe I’m wrong?) shift in interest from historical to aesthetic/formal? A little first person narrative helping us understand how you value each might, in this case, help your essay along (but don’t do it if it doesn’t feel right to you or if it doesn’t help you do your analysis).


    1. It’s funny you made this suggestion because that is exactly what my essay is about. I tried incorporate a very small amount of historical analysis with formal (theatrical) analysis. I’ll be posting the final version shortly.


  2. Hi Aidan! Spencer’s connection of these pieces to the Monarchy and other power structures like the church was something that also stood out to me. I thought it was a totally different way to look at how art could be used, for politics or propaganda or even diplomacy!

    From reading some of your other posts, it sounds like you’re really interested in the bigger political and economic stories happening around the art we’ve been studying. Those out of the (perspective) box uses of art could be something you might explore in Essay #1!


  3. Hi Aidan! I think I commented on this earlier and the post got deleted or never actually posted. Nevertheless, I really appreciate how you draw attention to the dog staring at the viewer in the right hand corner. I think it does pull the picture together and make the viewer feel as though they were part of the action. I’m also interested in the subject of this painting, that Christ is preaching, and how that would have been received in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. I think you present a great analysis of the use of light and perspective in this painting. I am wondering if you this the scale of the building is meant to accentuate the architecture or to draw the viewers focus to the center of the painting – the subject – Christ preaching?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s