Paolo Uccello and the autonomous construction of an object in itself

According to Giorgio Vasari, if Paolo Uccello “had labored much in the figures and animals, as he toiled and lost time in the study and representation of perspective, he would be the most graceful genius in the history of painting, from Giotto to his time”. It is indeed true that the characters painted by Paolo Uccello can often seem unnatural or unrealistic when compared with other painters of his time.

However looking closely at the artist’s work, you can notice how the shape of the figures and the perspective are both part of the same mental order: in his painting the visible aspect of things is intrinsically linked to its structure. A good example of this latter concept is to be found in the “Study of a chalice” (1450-1470 approximately, attributed to the artist), which is not a representation of a concrete object, but the autonomous construction of an object in itself.

The cup is a parse operation (of reality) and synthesis (aesthetics). If considered in this way, even the improbable figures of horses in the “Battle of San Romano” (looking more like toys than real animals) acquire a meaning that goes beyond the juxtaposition of Vasari between “figure” and “animals” on one side and “perspective” on the other. His early works that show the formation of this aesthetic of the volume of things are now on show in Prato (“From Donatello to Lippi”, Palazzo Pretorio, until January 13th). Each object (architecture, rock, man, woman, horse, dragon) becomes the projection of himself into a mental and independent dimension.

June 19, 2019