100 Fixing the Calendar 1582

   A Fresh Point of View 1413

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65   A Fresh Point of View 1413 
ALL HE DID was invent infinity. Or at least the illusion of infinity that exists in a painting. Before Filippo Brunelleschi's 1413 painting of the Baptistery in Florence, artists placed their subjects in a world of theoretical space on the surface of a wall or a canvas. Buildings and figures and trees and saints danced laterally on a flat plane, free of the laws of physics or optics. But by harnessing his relentless powers of observation to a precise set of mathematical calculations, the Florentine architect-sculptor-engineer codified the way objects appear smaller as they recede in space. Brunelleschi's ideas transformed the contrivance of a painting into a window onto the wondrous world of the Renaissance. At the same time, his work focused attention on the religious and intellectual issues of the time. The notion that all reality converges at some focused end point in space may be as much an expression of the belief in an omnipotent Creator as it is an exercise in optical mathematics. The rules of perspective also made the viewer of the scene--in his case, Renaissance man--a participant in the process of perception. The eye of the beholder becomes the center of the visible world, a world that exists to be experienced by people just discovering their power to experience it. 

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