How Perspective was altered by Saenredam and How Spencer and Brusati Describes it

Brusati describes the different perspectives that were created and utilized in Dutch art of the 17th Century in more of mathematical view than Spencer. He provided pictures in pencil of template that was used to create the perspectives. In at least one instance, she directs you on how your eye should follow the template and how it creates a focal point and/or a new perspective for the view. Spencer’s describes the different perspectives in more of an artist realm. He was less focused on the geometry and more on what the artist was thinking the perspective would create for the viewer and the work of art itself. He described the perspectives from a more artistic and creative standpoint. He also draws on more on the historical context in relation to new movements of Dutch art and new perspectives coming about surrounding important events of Holland in the 17th Century. 

Pieter Janszoon Saenredam’s oil on panel, The Transept of the Mariakerk in Utretch, made in 1637 is a perfect example of a different perspective that Dutch artists rendered during the 17th Century. Both Spencer and Brusati touch on this particular perspective of Dutch art, but Brusati goes into more detail on this particular perspective. Saenredam, in this work, as Brusati highlights in her reading reconstructed time and space through the perspective lens rendered in his paintings. His perspective in this steers away from the more traditional horizontal perspective that was used in Dutch are in the 17th Century to a vertical panel. This change in perspective through using a very close vantage point, he evolved the painting of the chapel into a tunnel-like space. Spencer draws back on the historical context to help explain how perspectives similar to Saenredam’s painting, The Transept of the Mariakerk in Utretch, led the space of the chapel to be the focal point and the walls to be more to desolate.  Spencer refers to this as the box perspective, that she claims “both perspective-box interiors reflect the aesthetic outcomes of Protestant Reformation in their absence of idolatry” (195).  I agree with Brusati that the vertical vantage point that Saenredam utilized to create the perspective in this art work create a tunnel-like effect with the space. It makes you feel as though you are there in the Chapel and overwhelmed by the height of the ceilings and the depth of the space. The extreme height of the ceiling seems as though it is exaggerated and purposefully done by Saenredam to make the view gasp in awe just as I surmise that Saenredam did when he first step foot in this chapel.

Perspective Engraving, Hans Vredeman de Vires, 1604, 22.8 × 22.8 cm
The Transept of the Mariakerk in Utrecht, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1637, oil on panel, 58.8cm × w 44.6cm 

2 thoughts on “How Perspective was altered by Saenredam and How Spencer and Brusati Describes it

  1. You’re right that Spencer draws on historical context surrounding the use of perspective while Brusati focuses more on the technical aspects. What other details will further illuminate the claims each one draws from their respective foci? Do you think they tend to agree about what perspective in paintings does? (or did?). Spencer seems more focused on it as a status symbol (and an import product) for the Danish king, right (and note that Spencer is talking specifically and only about perspective boxes, actual 3-dimensional constructions painted inside to create an optical illusion of depth). Brusati’s is a more detailed formal analysis that draws inferences about what viewers and the painters were thinking and doing.

    You’re getting at it when you talk about Saenredam’s shift from horizontal to vertical perspective–what does that mean exactly, and how did it affect viewers differently (at least, according to Brusati)? The details here start to work towards an interpretation of your own–are you experiencing the responses that Brusati theorizes you will (or that viewers did?). Or is your experience different from that? This might be a good starting point for ideas for your paper, describing closely your own viewing experience in detail and then comparing that to what any of the scholars think is going on as one looks.


  2. Hi Claire! I think you really hit the nail right on the head with the difference between the mathematical and artistic in these two writers’ analytical perspectives. It can get really technical analyzing where the lines are leading and how it all ties into optics, but sometimes what’s more important than technique is how the whole thing makes us feel about a subject!
    Something you could explore in Essay #1 might be where that sort of concrete science of optics and perspective runs into human intention and reaction!


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