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Masters of Illusions – Monocular Cues

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The Renaissance was a time of cultural movement occurring from the 14th century to the 17th century, it brought along with it a new view of art and literature. Many of today’s famous artists came from the Renaissance such as Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Many of the pieces they drew displayed evidence monocular cues which are depth perception cues that allowed the viewer to see the art in three dimensions. Today, monocular cues are used almost everywhere, from photographs to movies and television shows to create a visual appeal and depth to the work.

The monocular cue, Linear perspective, is the cue that shows a convergence of lines to a single point, which can also be the vanishing point. Many of the Renaissance art show this cue. For example, in “The school of Athens” by Raphael, it shows a building filled with people. Because all of the lines lead to a certain point, it results in it being the center of the picture and its vanishing point. By doing this, Raphael was able to make the 2D art appear to have depth and 3D. Another artwork that shows linear perspective is “The Last Dinner” by Leonardo da Vinci. In this artwork, it shows a dining hall with people gathered around the table. The angle of the picture shows linear perspective since they all lead to Jesus, who is the vanishing point in this picture. Another evidence of linear perspective can be seen by the doors on the side of the walls, usually a door would be a rectangle, but by turning the rectangular door into a parallelogram, he is able to make it so that the artwork seems to extend into the center. Another monocular cue that is used in Renaissance art is relative size. Relative size explains that the further away the object is, the smaller it appears to be.

Relative size can be seen in the artwork, “The Confirmation of the Rule of the Order of St. Francis by Pope Honorius III.” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, shows a pope and his court in the foreground while in the background, there are people who appears to be tiny. Ghirlandaio is able to make this piece of artwork 3D because of relative size the people appears smaller than the people in the front. Another artist who shows evidence of relative size in their artwork is Benozzo Gozzoli, who painted “The Magi”. In this painting, it shows travelers marching from the wood which is in the background of the painting. The bottom of the picture shows the beginning of the march and as the marchers line up, they appear to be smaller because they are further away. Gozzoli was able to successfully show relative size because he made it appear that the painting has depth to it and that the people are actually some distances away from each other. The monocular cue, texture, explains that if an object is closer to us, the texture of the object will be clearer and detailed whereas an object that is further away from us, the object will appear blurry or fine.

Pieter Bruegel’s artwork, “The Corn Harvest,” is able to present texture. The painting shows people eating near what appears to be a farm field, while in the background, there is a town. Bruegel showed texture in his painting because in it, he made the people in the front more detailed by drawing the faces of the people and drawing each single leaf in the tree. But as the view changes to the background, the viewer is able to see that the texture has greatly diminished and there isn’t much detail anymore. This can be seen by the trees becoming blurry and the people’s detail reduced to simple stick figures. Another piece of art that shows texture is “The Peasant Dance”, which is also painted by Pieter Bruegel. In this painting, there are people dancing and having a good time.

The texture of the people in the very front are elaborate and as the viewer focuses his attention to the background of the picture, it is clear that the texture went from coarse to fine because the people in the back do not have significant details such as faces or proper figure. In fact, they seem to be just paint blotches. Monocular cues have played a big role in a person’s perspective and it has allowed people to see things in a whole new way. The Renaissance gave birth to monocular cues and from there, it has been used by many artists like Da Vinci, Pieter Bruegel, and Benozzo Gozzoli, each of them using different monocular cues in different ways. What began with artworks from the Renaissance has evolved into motion pictures and photography. Today, monocular cues are used to create new technology such as 3D TVs and movies.

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