Salomon de Caus

Title La perspective...
Imprint Frankfurt am Main, Hulsius' widow, s.d.
Subject Perspective
Consult in image mode
Transcribed version of the text


     A third version of La perspective (London, 1612) is known of, bearing, at the bottom of the title page, the words "A fancfort (sic) ches la vesve de Hulsius", and of which the "2" of the 1612 date shows signs of having been corrected.  This version, printed in London by Richard Field, was part of a limited edition, a part of which was printed in Brussels by Jan Mommaert (Mommart).  It differs from the 1611 version printed by Robert Barker, and from the original 1612 version, printed by John Norton in its illustrations.  In the plate illustrating the first method "for foreshortening a square plane" ("Pour mettre une superficie plane quarree en racourcissement", ch. 1), for example, there are three significant changes.  Firstly, the "poinct de haulteur" and the "poinct d'eslongnement", which respectively indicate the eye's height above its station point on the ground plan and its distance from the painting (situated perpendicularly to the ground plane), are here represented on a human figure carrying a set square and a compass.  Secondly, the two views of the square – one frontal ("Ingnografie" [sic]) and the other in profile ("Ortografie") –, presented separately in the 1611 edition, are here combined in a single diagram.  This choice breaks with the principle which governs Alberti's "construction légitime", wherein the two views are separated and coordinated as in the method known as "double projection" – a principle subsequently consummated by Piero della Francasca, who considered the frontal view of the side of the painting as a profile view of itself, and then by Gauricus, who used (as Caus does here) a vertical median line of the square as a simulacrum of this profile view.  This method is also found in Vignola's work, the reading of which may have inspired Caus' choice to combine the two views.  In Caus' case, however, the process is not the starting point for a perspective construction based on a gridded ground plan, but rather a first example of the double projection method, prior to its systematic use.  Finally, the word "Senografie", which appears in the original version of this plate, disappears in this third edition, as does the expression "ligne taillée": the line of the floor is marked, as in the 1611 plate, by the two letters L and I.  In addition, the chosen point of view point is laterally centred: the eye is situated opposite the median of the square, MN (also marked as GI – in order to preserve unchanged the commentary on the facing page – and absent in the 1611 edition), which serves to determine the outline of the foreshortened image, such that this image takes the form of a isosceles trapezoid, while in the 1611 version, the scalene position of the eye produces an ordinary trapezoid.

Jean-Pierre Le Goff (IREM & RDLI-LASLAR,
Université de Caen Basse-Normandie) – 2011


Critical bibliography

A. Marr, "A Duche graver sent for : Cornelis Boel, Salomon de Caus, and the production of La perspective avec la raison des ombres et miroirs", T. Wilks (ed.), Prince Henry Reviv'd : Image and Exemplarity in Early Modern England, London, Paul Holberton Publishing, 2007, pp. 212-238.

A. W. Pollard, G. R. Redgrave, W. A. Alexander, F. S. Ferguson & K. F. Pantzer (ed.), A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, London/New York, The Bibliography Society Oxford/Oxford University Press, 1986, 1, n° 4869 (1st ed.: London, 1926).