Portrait of Paolo Uccello (16C), by an unknown Florentine artist, from a fresco now at the Louvre, Paris, Paolo Uccello, Italy, Italy (Photo by sailko)
Portrait of Paolo Uccello (16C), by an unknown Florentine artist, from a fresco now at the Louvre, Paris

An early Renaissance master of perspective who played with it as a Cubist might

Where Masaccio tried to achieve a new level of clarity and illusionistic reality with his persepctive, Paolo Uccello (1397–1475) became obsessed over experimenting with it.

Uccello was famous for his utter mastery of persepctive. But once he'd mastered it, he played with it.

He would work out the math of perfect perspective in some paintings and then warping it in others to see how far he could push the tenets for narrative and symbolic ends rather than sheerly representative. He perfected the technique, but then used it to make scenes dramatically unrealistic, using the perspective as the tool to tell a story rather than using the images and characters in it (a very difficult and slippery concept to grasp for the rest of us, who are trained to look at a fresco kind of like a comic book and read the story in the actions and expressions of the characters).

His trio of 1456 paintings depicting the Battle of San Romano—painted for a Medici cousin, but now split between the Uffizi in Florence, the National Gallery in London, and the Louvre in Paris—is famously innovative but also rather ugly. The paintings depict one of Florence's great victories over rival Siena, but for Uccello it was more of an excuse to explore perspective. In the immortal words of art historian Frederick Hartt, in the panel now in London, a knight "has even managed to die in perspective."

In a way, Uccello was far ahead of his time, using perspective as a key operating tool of the painting rather than just a method, the way the Cubists would later warp perspective to show different facets of the same scene.

Selected works by Paolo Uccello in Italy


"Flood and Waters Subsiding" (1447–48) by Paolo Uccello in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence

"Noah's Sacrifice and Noah's Drunkenness" (1447–48) by Paolo Uccello in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence

"Expulsion from Paradise and Stories of Cain and Abel" (1430) by Paolo Uccello in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence

"Creation of Animals, Adam, Eve and Original Sin" (1430) by Paolo Uccello in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Fragment of a fresco of the "Stigmata of St. Francis" (1430-35) by Paolo Uccello in the Chiesa di Santa Trìnita, Florence

"Painted Equestrian statue Sir John Hawkwood" (1436) by Paolo Uccello in the Duomo of Florence, Florence

"L'Orolorgio" or "Clock with Heads of Prophets" (1443) by Paolo Uccello in the Duomo of Florence, Florence

"Tebaide : Life of the Holy Hermit" (14602) by Paolo Uccello in the Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze, Florence

"Battaglia di San Romano" or "Battle of San Romano" (1436–40) by Paolo Uccello in the Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The first corridor, Florence

Where to find works by Paolo Uccello in Italy

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"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
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"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 3rd floor 1st corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
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 (Photo by Viktória Nižninská)
Free
The Duomo
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi's dome

 
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 (Photo by Allan Parsons)
Santa Maria Novella
Florence: Santa Maria Novella

This Florentine church puts painting in perspective—literally, as home to some of the most groundbreaking frescoes of the early Renaissance