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Vision Askew: Anamorphosis, Catoptrics, and Dioptrics in Early Modern Art

Posted By Justina Spencer, Monday, May 1, 2017
Updated: 1 hour ago

In the early modern era the methods of perspective were successfully applied beyond classic two-dimensional paintings in the form of anamorphic murals, three-dimensional peepboxes, conical mirrors, and crystalline telescopes. Such optical illusions often disguised clever political allegories, obfuscated erotic titillations, or functioned as pedagogical puzzles as they were contingent on the knowledge audiences brought to the works. This session seeks to explore the production, collection, and circulation of material objects that skew vision with the aim of understanding how such art forms reify contemporaneous theory and cultural attitudes. Whether mirrored, refracted, or anamorphically skewed, what do optical illusions reveal about early modern perception or imagination? How do such art forms converse with optical or mathematical theory? Do they reveal distinct religious or political attitudes in the form of covert satire? Ultimately, this panel aims to uncover how illusions functioned as pedagogical mechanisms by exploring the visual punchlines hidden in their makeup.

Topics may include (but are not limited to): the role of illusion in the study of optics; deceptive entertainments in early modern courts and Kunstkammern; embodied perception; anamorphosis as political or religious allegory; illusion as play or method of instruction.

Proposals addressing any geographical area are welcome.

Please send a paper title (15 word maximum), abstract (150 word maximum), keywords, and a brief curriculum vitae (1 page) to Justina Spencer: jspencer@uottawa.ca, by June 2, 2017.

Tags:  anamorphosis  art history  History of Science  illusion  optics  perspective 

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