The A to Z Challenge – Q for Quadratura, Trompe l’oeil, & Forced Perspective

The A to Z Challenge is on! Hello and welcome to my Main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a romance novelist. Join me and more than 2279 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. My daily posts will be mostly history with some science topics here and there. I’ve chosen subjects that tickle my fancy, I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post. I may not know the answer off the top of my head but I love research and would enjoy discussing my topics further. Comments can be made just below my bio in the tag section.

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Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter Q ~
Q for Quadratura (And a little Trompe l’oeil, & Forced Perspective)

Since mankind first conceptualized his world on cave walls so many millennia ago, artists continue to convey emotion through artistic expression. It doesn’t matter the size, scope, medium, or subject. Man is driven to create art. I’ve wondered why that is since I was a girl strolling Chicago’s renown Art Institute. I do have my opinions. I believe it’s our self-awareness that drives us. We tap into something so much bigger than ourselves and art becomes meditation or prayer. I’m sure I’m not alone in making this observation. I’ve seen the divine concord in the brushstrokes of those masterpieces I grew up with. (I’ll share those thoughts in depth in my magnum opus –my enormous non-romance as-yet-unnamed work in progress.)

In my opinion as an art lover, there have been some stunning chapters in the sketchbook of mankind. I have a few favorites: The Classical era with its alabaster and marble sculpture so finely detailed you can see veils and curls. The Middle Ages with feats of artistic architecture.  The Renaissance gave us light, and with it, keen perspective.  The late Victorian era had the Belle Époque and light returned after a long hiatus.  Add to this list the bold images of the Art Deco movement. Though there are many defining eras and ages before, after, and in-between, these art movements strike a chord in me.

Outside of specific eras where one or two styles were in vogue and everyone was trying their hand at them, there are some works of art that stood alone even in their time. A few I could get lost in. The nightmarish works of Hieronymus Bosch compel me to look for every demon and grim reaper hidden in the brushstrokes. Salvador Dali pulls at a point just between my eyes. I suppose the individual vignettes both artists fill their canvases with appeal to my ADD brain. lol And I’m sure were I to stare overlong at the works of M. C. Escher I might fall down that rabbit hole. Like I said, I could get lost in them. Some of my favorite artistic expressions have to do with tricking the eye. And that’s what today’s post is all about.

There’s a mode of painting called Quadratura. When you pronounce it it’s pretty straight forward until you get to the t. The t is pronounced ch.

Quadratura means to square. This has to do with painting walls and the angles involved. When I say that, I don’t mean painting the wall, I mean murals on the walls and ceilings. Illusions like these tricked the eye by visually extending the room’s actual architecture into an imaginary space beyond. The point was sotto in su meaning from below upwards. 

Trompe l’oeil, meaning deceive the eye, is less about extending walls than it is about depth. It tricks the eye into seeing flat paintings in 3-D. The Quadratura techniques required an artist to have exceptional spatial skills and mastery of linear perspective. The amazing thing about this grand art style is the full impact of the scene is generally only visible from one vantage point.

One of the more interesting techniques of this visual trickery is Forced Perspective. Example: Were you to lay the Sistine Chapel’s paintings flat rather than going with the curved ceiling vaults it was painted on, you’d see disproportionate and contorted bodies. By painting within the constraints of arcs and keeping the sotto in su in mind, Michelangelo created a stunning masterpiece meant to be seen from below. My small blog doesn’t do the grand images justice. I recommend looking these beauties up online or at the library.

A few examples of Quadratura:

The Palace of Versailles ceiling
Guercino’s Aurora
Correggio’s The Assumption of the Virgin
Andrea Pozzo’s The Apotheosis of St Ignatius

A few examples of Trompe l’oeil:
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

Charles Willson Peale’s The Artist in His Museum
The ceiling in the Royal Palace of Madrid
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper

The restoration of the Sistine Chapel
Seven things you may not know about the Sistine Chapel

Modern takes on Quadratura and Trompe L’oeil

An example of Forced Perspective in film

Tomorrow ~ letter R


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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7 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – Q for Quadratura, Trompe l’oeil, & Forced Perspective

  1. Ray G says:

    Art, something politicians don’t think is important enough to be taught in school nor worth the spending of public funds.

  2. You are filling in many gaps in my education with your fascinating blog posts, Rose.

  3. rosgemmell says:

    Thanks for this, Rose – I’ve always love art and this had to my appreciation of it.

  4. mikey2ct says:

    Wonderful post , Rose. So much information conveyed in a relatively small space.

  5. skmarshall2014 says:

    For years, I spent a lot of time in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The old masters just pulled me to them.

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