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paolo Uccello
Paolo Uccello, Battle of San Romano: Micheletto da Cotignola Joins the Battle, c. 1440
180 x 316 cm,Tempera on panel, Louve, Paris
Unlike its companion panels in London and Florence this panel has no background scene. It is therefore a unity in its perspective. Like Tolentino, Cotignola is shown unhelmeted. The unicorn banner above Cotignola was his personal device. The point of view is at the horses' bridles, not the horsemen's heads (as in the other two). In terms of overall impression one feels much more in the midst of the battle. There are indications that this may have been painted later than the other panels - if so it shows Uccello tending towards realism in his composition and away from his Gothic roots.

Nice. Interesting getting the perspective on your pilgrim's progress. Thanks for putting this stuff up. It's comforting to see these campfires in the dark and think they're friends, no?

This piece Micheletto da Cotignola Joins the Battle. Really spreads it out all at once.

There are these purely ornamental and nearly totally abstracted things in this painting besides the running esquire wearing the mazzocchio. I can't tell for sure, he might be holding one of the two similar shields — which are far left and slightly left of center — that have the outrageous geometric designs where Uchello shows off a bit of handle he's gotten on the perspective staying up so late at night — with precise distortion over a planar surface.

Uccello has taken these shields and their striking compass-rose geometry and rotated the left one about 45° on its Y axis — and rotated and tipped the central one back on the X axis at the same time — which i think he did to show off. It's also striking spatial device because they define an outward bowing arc inscribed from the rear overhead that encloses the whole painting — it farthest outward extent is Cotignola's horse's front legs — actually i think the arc goes about through the withers — and is wrapped around in toward the backplane to the right by the rumps of the hoses curving away from us.

He's also stretched the hell out of that left horse so that it's about as long as a VW bus, and used it to help kick Cotignola's horse frontward almost through the picture plane in a difficult foreshortening to get if you're going to preserve the mass of the beast. This arc of device and flesh he's scribed pushes the left side way back, the center forward but with a strangely cleared space to break the plane horizontally and walk us in visually, and then wraps back around to the right again. There really are elements of 3 point perspective here, in that he's working the apparent curvature of the visual field of the human eye on a small scale so that it seems wider to us.

The guy can't leave it alone — he really wanted to carve some space here, and he mixed Gothic perceptual placement devices with new techno metric perspective. Those matching striped bowling trophy / finial things above the armored horsemen's heads use several methods - the lathe shaping and then leaning in toward the rear center to point the eye. In case there was someone in the audience that didn't get it, he used the old "lances leaning in and back" gimmick too, along with a bit of the old "pennant winding back through vertical pikes" business — but i think he's already so conversant here with the new idiom that he's having us on a bit with the (ok, i'll say it..) "knowing juxtaposition of the two visual technologies."

Finally — for me the cracker here is the bridget riley treatment of the perfect sine waves of that flattened black and white striped pennant. I mean, c'mon - this guy is good, he can paint a flag like a flag if he wants to — this is a purely ornamental statement here that presages op-art and abstraction. Focus on the Unicorn device if you like to wade in the shallows of "great man" theory of history if it pleases, — I mean — there was a patron involved, right? So? You work for Sony, you get the logo in the picture, ok? But the shields, the stripey lathed looking topknots, the sine wave banner — that's Uchello running his perspective machine - and playing with it on the sponsor's dime. Sponsor probably didn't have a clue, y'know?

I'm not saying here that this Uccello guy was some sort of prescient trickster or something, knowingly anticipating art-future ("...tis a poor history, that only works backwards...") and having a giggle on us any more than Vermeer was anticipating the Kodak Corporation or the opaque projector. But they were both thinking in as consciously a modern and technological sense as anyone working the medium in our time. You get to a certain level of awareness here, and you get this non-time bound human intelligence effect working through the long night.

/mark robertson, 2001

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