Beyond Perspective. Francesco Salviati’s Depiction of Time in Space
Studies in Visual Arts and Communication – an international journal / Dec 2014 1(2)
Among the capricciose et ingegnose invenzioni that made Francesco Salviati a famous and discussed mannerist painter, a special place is occupied by Bathsheba goes to David he painted in 1552 in the fresco cycle at Palazzo Ricci in Rome. He depicted Bathsheba four times while approaching a towered alcove via a sinuous staircase: one can see her climbing the stairs, entering David’s room and joining him as four subsequent moments overlapped in the same picture. Such a narrative device has remote origins but appears unusual in an artistic context theoretically dominated by the perspective representation. A perspective should be like a photograph: an instant projection of three-dimensional space from a centre on a plane. Time flowing should be conceptually excluded from such a representation. Even the fictive architectural background Salviati painted, responds to no canonical perspective construction: the stair follows a curved geometry that is hardly detectable and incongruous with the human figures depicted on. But the little painting is only part of a wider anti-perspectival visual program in which the whole hall is involved to move the observer along invisible narrative tracks.
Francesco Salviati, Palazzo Ricci, Sala dei Mappamondi, Bathsheba and David, Representation of time in space, Fictive architecture, Perspective decoration, Optical illusions, Trompe l’oeil.