The Accidental Perspective: The World Seen From The Angle


Accidental perspective. Two words capable of throwing students into panic …

Yet “accidental” simply means unexpected, accidental. Because it is precisely that perspective that is obtained when one stands in front of the scene without paying attention to placing the perspective picture parallel to the front wall.

A dynamic and natural perspective comes out like the most spontaneous things. Nothing to do with the solemn balance of the central Renaissance perspective that Leonardo & Co. have accustomed us to.

Leonardo & Co

However, during the Renaissance, some objects rotated with respect to the perspective grid began to appear timidly. An anomalous position that requires a representation with two vanishing points.


This is the case, for example, of the open doors made with wooden inlays for Federico da Montefeltro’s study in Urbino and Gubbio. These, opening in directions that are not orthogonal to the perspective picture, are necessarily represented in an accidental perspective.

Federico da Montefeltro's study in Urbino and Gubbio

In the sixteenth century, studies on perspective began to deal with accidental vision by applying it to objects in any case arranged with respect to the scene or by hypothesizing entire architectures in a 45 ° angular position.

This is the case of the studies by Hans Vredeman de Vries, textbook examples of the use of perspective in all its variables.

Hans Vredeman de Vries

But we need to wait another century to see the systematic use of the accidental perspective. In fact, in the late Baroque period, the corner view began to be widely used for its dynamic and scenographic effect.

And it is in the theatrical field that this transition takes place. With the lineage of the Bibbiena Gauls, set designers and painters, the representation of the architectural space becomes complex and spectacular.

Bibbiena Gauls

In the same period (mid-eighteenth century) Giovanni Battista Piranesi engraved his magnificent prisons or his whims of Roman ruins with bold glimpses of great depth.

It is the triumph of the corner view, suggestive and surprising.

Even Canaletto’s contemporary views, often set on the central perspective although asymmetrical, sometimes show a corner vision that makes them extremely fresh and modern.

Scenes that have the spontaneous flavor of the photographic frame. And, on the other hand, Canaletto studied them with his optical camera, a device that allowed him to trace the contours of the real image of the space, creating his famous “scarabotes“.


The use of accidental perspective by the Impressionists also derives from the style of photography: a century after Canaletto, the city (but also the interiors) is observed in its chromatic and luminous effects from original particularly dynamic angles.

Here are some examples of Claude Monet

Claude Monet

by Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro

by Edgar Degas

and above all by Gustave Caillebotte.

Gustave Caillebotte
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