Chasing shadows: A look at the treatment of light and shade in painters' quest for spatial realism in 13th and 14th century Italy

Black, John (2001) Chasing shadows: A look at the treatment of light and shade in painters' quest for spatial realism in 13th and 14th century Italy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of digitised version of the original print thesis] PDF (digitised version of the original print thesis)
Download (188MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This is a study of Duecento and Trecento Italian painters' approach to light and shade in their attempts to create the illusion of depth in pictures. Based on the examination of a large number of paintings it is an essentially technical consideration of the developments in the depiction of light's effects during this period of reviving interest in illusionistic painting. This, of necessity, must be from a 20th century perspective, and some virtue is deliberately made out of this anachronistic scrutiny. Care is taken to appreciate the concepts of the period through a study of its prevailing theories and practice, and to relate these to modem theories of light and perception. At the same time the developments are also related to the historical traditions, antique and medieval, which had shaped art up until the Duecento. In this respect the invaluable contribution made by Byzantine art in providing continuity with the heritage of Graeco-Roman and Hellenistic painting becomes apparent. The developments are looked at thematically with separate examination of the treatment of light in Faces, Gamients and Fabrics, Architecture, Landscape, Night effects and Lit Interiors, and with, finally, a look at its absence in Shadows. The closing decades of the Duecento and the opening ones of the Trecento prove the most fertile period for the renewed pursuit of naturalistic working and much of the study centres on them. Some consolidation of the re-established illusionistic techniques is noted in the first half of the 14th century but only isolated essays are noted in the latter half. Here the balance of interest is perceived to shift, and a painting's decorative effect rather than its powers of illusion are more valued. The new procedures and conventions established by the first decade are seen formally maintained, but only in localised realistic effects. The signs of a return to a more active pursuit of overall composite lighting illusion are then examined in works of the first decades of the Quattrocento, when the advances of a century earlier are systematically taken up once more.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Art history, shades and shadows in art, painting, Italian, Medieval.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Gibb, Dr. Robert
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-72207
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:11
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 10:38
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.72207

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year