Call for Papers: Perspective as Practice

An international conference on the circulation of optical knowledge in and outside the workshop - October 12-13, 2012, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Organizers: Sven Dupré, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin & Jeanne Peiffer, Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris

We invite proposals from scholars in the history of science and technology, the history of art, technical art history and conservation science and other related disciplines for an international conference on the production and circulation of optical knowledge in workshop and design practices of the visual and decorative arts and (garden) architecture between the fourteenth and seventeenth century.

This conference addresses both the practical optical knowledge produced in the context of artists’ workshops and artists’ appropriation and use of the science of optics (perspectiva), which included questions of psychology, physiology, anatomy, physics, and mathematics, for the production of art and architecture, including gardens. We welcome, in particular, papers which discuss the material practices of artists (as diverse as gardeners and goldsmiths) in imitating and representing the effects of light, creating the illusion of space and the shaping of landscape (from the use of paper and other instruments, also on real sites, to experimentation with the optical qualities of pigments and binding media). Equally welcome are papers which throw light on artists’ reading of texts on optics and their possible use in the context of the workshop.

We see this conference as a correction to the ways in which Erwin Panofsky’s "Perspective as Symbolic Form" – written more than 80 years ago – has shaped the historiography of perspective up until the present day, despite more recent important interventions by a.o. James Elkins and Hans Belting). Therefore, instead of seeking connections with worldviews and philosophies of space, this conference takes into account the polysemy of perspective associated with the practice of perspective. The conference will bring out the variety of uses and different meanings of perspectiva – during the period between 1300 and 1700 and across different sites of artists’ appropriations of optical knowledge. By situating artists’ optical knowledge in workshop and design practices, we anticipate that the conference papers will be attentive to a variety of constructions that create the illusion of space, and pay as much attention to other types of optical knowledge as to the geometry of perspective. We especially welcome innovative approaches to the study of the circulation of optical knowledge within the artist’s workshop.

Invited speakers:
Marjolijn Bol (Utrecht), Filippo Camerota (Florence), Georges Farhat (Toronto), Francesca Fiorani (Virginia), Elaheh Kheirandish (Harvard), Dominique Raynaud (Grenoble), Pietro Roccasecca (Rome)

Submission guidelines:
Deadline for proposals: March 15, 2012

Please submit a 300-words abstract as e-mail attachment along with your name, institutional affiliation and email address to

Please indicate in the subject line of your message: submission optics workshop.

Sekretariat Dupré
Max Planck Research Group
Art and Knowledge in Premodern Europe
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Boltzmannstraße 22
14195 BERLIN