The day Linear Perspective was re-discovered and changed art forever

In the year 1415, the artist Filippo Brunelleschi discovered, or more honestly, re-discovered a method of architecture that would revolutionize art forever. Linear Perspective allowed art to have depth and appear to be in 3D, allowing portraits and paintings to seem more realistic, a key factor that defined the Renaissance Era. Dimensions in paintings and portraits might seem like casual characteristics to us now, but before Brunelleschi linear perspective was a lost method of art that seemed like having no chance of being rediscovered. It is evidenced in the art before him. 

Before Brunelleschi’s rediscovery, the Greeks and Romans of ancient times were had discovered a form of linear perspective in their art. One example is Ancient Rome’s Trajan Column. Trajan’s Column was built from slabs of white marble, which then were carved by sculptors to incredible detail. Looking back from today’s perspective, it is hard to fathom how detailed the Romans were in architecture with the “lack of information” available. Trajan’s Column is a textbook example that the Romans had a form of linear perspective in their art, being able to skillfully draw body proportions. The talent it takes it to create a column 100ft tall, while also nailing down an appropriate body proportion, while also considering the time period they were in is mindboggling, to say the least. The Greeks also had a form of linear perspective down as well, evidenced in the painted villas of Pompeii. You can see that the paintings, specifically of the city, use forms of linear perspective to form appropriate dimensions of the landscape. You can tell by the villas how they are drawn right next to or on top of each other, yet the Greeks use linear perspective to display how the villas are actually in separate parts of the city. These examples show that linear perspective was an artistic skill that was being used before the Renaissance. However, during the Middle Ages that artistic skill would become nearly forgotten. 

A shift took place during the Middle Ages and its artwork. Artists were no more focusing on portraying the world around them in their art, but rather religious figures and events. Most of the art in the Middle Ages were created to reflect and emphasize the Catholic church. Artists began being commissioned to create works depicting Biblical tales and themes for churches. While this art is unique in its own right, architecture as a whole took a step back during this period. One unique perspective of Medieval (Middle Ages) art is its flatness and disproportions to its reality. These characteristics are evidenced in artworks such as Madonna and Child with Saint Jerome and Saint John the Baptist, Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram, and paintings of the poem “Roman de la Rose”. It would seem from an outsider’s perspective that the subject material of Medieval art is just as/if not more important than depicting a realistic portrayal of the event being drawn. This artistic choice would go on for around 1000 years. After 1000 years of this artistic choice, it was clear to artists in Florence that they could not create depth in a painting. A question that seemed to have no current answer kept arising, “How can you make a portrait seem more realistic?” A simple answer to people now, but a huge question that lacked answer, an answer that wasn’t known until Filippo Brunelleschi figured it out. 

Brunelleschi seemed to observe that with a fixed point of view, parallel lines appear to converge at a single point in the distance. Brunelleschi would then apply a single vanishing point to a canvas, to which all lines on the same plane appear to converge and objects appear smaller as they recede into the distance. He would then use that method to calculate depth. A famous experiment involving Brunelleschi recalls him using mirrors to sketch the Florence baptistry to perspective perfection. Brunelleschi was able to use math to calculate the scale of objects within a painting to make them seem more realistic. Brunelleschi found a way to bridge the gap between math and art. This was a paramount achievement in art and architecture, and soon many other artists were using Brunelleschi's method of perspective to incredible results in their paintings. This method was crucial to Renaissance art, where creating an accurate illusion of space could seem natural and then be applied to the human body. In many pieces of Renaissance art, Brunelleschi’s method is used. Some examples of linear perspective in Renaissance Art are The Ideal City of Urbino, The Hunters in the Snow, The Tower of Babel, and The Arnolfini Portrait. These portraits show linear perspective in all its awesomeness from the dimensions of the city to the realistic proportions of the human body to its surroundings. You can see the drastic change from the flatness of Medieval art to the realistic paintings of Renaissance Era art. 

Brunelleschi’s ideas became widespread knowledge after fellow Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti published them in his book, On Painting. The use of linear perspective has changed our perspective of how we see art and this aesthetic of it, forever. Renaissance art allowed viewers to see art depicted in a way it hasn’t been before, realistic. The use of linear perspective rapidly became and still is standard studio art practice today. The aesthetic that linear perspective brought to art revolutionized it in a way that hasn’t been changed since.


“BRUNELLESCHI and the Re-Discovery of Linear Perspective.” MaItaly, 28 Feb. 2018,

says:, Cheryl Ernest. “Brunelleschi 'Rediscovers' Linear Perspective.” Drawing Academy, 26 Sept. 2018,

Blumberg, Naomi. “Linear Perspective.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Jan. 2020,

“Filippo Brunelleschi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2020,

Tribe, Yugen, et al. “8 Renaissance Artists Whose Work Transformed the Art World.” My Modern Met, 8 Sept. 2020,

“Introduction to the Middle Ages | Art History (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy,

“Medieval Art: Characteristics and Influences.” Invaluable, 26 June 2019,

“Trajan's Column.” MaItaly, 28 Feb. 2011,

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

circa. 1415