Niccolò Mauruzi da Tolentino at the Battle of San Romano (probably about 1438–1440)
by Paulo Uccello (1397-1475)
Medium: egg tempera with walnut oil and linseed oil on poplar
Dimensions: H 182 x W 320 cm
One of three panels that comprised the whole scene, this large-scale History painting recalls a Florentine victory over the neighbouring Sienese. The Italian artist is described by his biographer Giorgio Vasari as becoming quite obsessed with perspective – he recounts the story of how Uccello's wife complained that the artist stayed up all night wrestling with vanishing points and exclaiming, 'Oh, what a lovely thing perspective is!'
Do you think he was successful in creating a real, three-dimensional space that you could walk into? Or, do you think that the real conflict was between two and three dimensions for this artist? In one sense it appears flat and in another modelled in space. Where are these much-celebrated lines of perspective (linear perspective) most evident? Can you spot the use of foreshortening? What, in contrast, makes this painting feel flat and decorative?