14 March 2014 Shading and shadowing on Canaletto's Piazza San Marco
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Abstract
Whereas the 17th century painter Canaletto was a master in linear perspective of the architectural elements, he seems to have had considerable difficulty with linear perspective of shadows. A common trick to avoid shadow perspective problems is to set the (solar) illumination direction parallel to the projection screen. We investigated in one painting where Canaletto clearly used this trick, whether he followed this light direction choice consistently through in how he shades the persons. We approached this question with a perceptual experiment where we measured perceived light directions in isolated details of the paintings. Specifically, we controlled whether observers could only see the (cast) shadow, only shading or both. We found different trends in all three conditions. The results indicate that Canaletto probably used different shading than the parallel light direction would predict. We interpret the results as a form or artistic freedom that Canaletto used to shade the persons individually.
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Maarten W. A. Wijntjes, Huib de Ridder, "Shading and shadowing on Canaletto's Piazza San Marco", Proc. SPIE 9014, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIX, 901415 (14 March 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2047854; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2047854
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