• Perspective



Kim H. Veltman

Review: Rob Ruurs, Saenredam, The Art of Perspective

(Amsterdam, Benjamins l987) (OCULI Studies in the Arts of the Low Countries, Volume 1).
In: Simiolus, Amsterdam, Vol. 17, (1988), pp. 275-276.

Pieter Saenredam (1597-1655) is famous for perspectival spatial effects in his paintings of church interiors. Dr. Ruurs has made a valuable contribution through a first detailed study of Saenredam's practical procedures and methods to achieve these effects. An opening chapter deals with basic concepts of perspective. A detailed analysis of Saenredam's first church interior follows. The author then defines four stages in the execution of a painting (pp. 49-50):

First, Saenredam made a preparatory study after nature. Then he recorded the actual measurements. Using the preparatory study of the measurements, he proceeded to construct a perspectively correct line drawing to be traced onto a panel. Finally he painted the picture, deviating at times from the traced under-drawing. His main chapter concentrates on the role of Saenredam's 18 surviving preparatory drawings in producing the paintings. Dr. Ruurs argues convincingly that (p. 63): "the positions of the central vanishing point and the distance point (and also, therefore, of the horizon) in the construction were determined beforehand", which provides an interesting explanation why Saenredam resorted to preparatory studies and repudiates Liedtke's earlier claim that they were chosen arbitrarily. He adds that Saenredam used (83) "the simplest construction method: the distance point method", and that he was basically pragmatic in his approach.

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