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The Mirror and Painting in Early Renaissance Texts

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In Italy, notably Florence, the late fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries witnessed the proliferation of texts that discuss the relationship between the mirror and painting. In them, the mirror is closely associated with major innovations of the time such as naturalistic representation and linear perspective. On a technical level, the authors describe the mirror's function in the painting of self-portraits and recommend it be used to draw foreshortened objects more easily and to judge the quality of finished paintings. The technical aspects often lead over to theoretical considerations such as the limitations of perspective, the origins of painting, the analogy between the mirror image and the painted image, and the concept that the mind of the painter resembles a mirror. The fact that these texts do not mention the concave mirror projection method described by Hockney and Falco speaks strongly against its use in the early Renaissance.


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