A Note on Deleuze and Renaissance Art


“Perspective is much more than a secret technique for imitating a reality… It is the invention of a world dominated and possessed through and through.” These inimical words by Maurice Merleau-Ponty encapsulate a customary philosophical position, as explicit and implicit references to early modern culture by critical theorists and continental philosophers lead to an uninviting and even sinister picture (251). Because of its emphasis on the human eye, quantitative spatial relations, and the virtual incising of pictorial space via linear perspective, the Renaissance was cast as a formidable villain in order to uphold modern artistic production (Zorach, “Renaissance Theory” 9). It is an accusatory characterization that in turn empowers linear perspective as a technique that not only dictates a unified visual space on a flat surface, but also stipulates control over nature and urban spaces. The linear system is understood to have cut and hollowed the medieval urban fabric in order to create wide and straight avenues where “the tyranny of the geometrical does not allow for dirt, irregularity or ultimately life” (Schich 33). The disembodied eye of perspective looms. Withdrawn and private, the Renaissance appears not as a compelling or enticing adversary, but a bureaucratic administrator of the state machine, instituting universal regulations and a system of surveillance without concern for the specifics of site, life, or dwelling.

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