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Simone Gori, Riccardo Pedersini, Enrico Giora; Graphic invariants for representing motion throughout the history of art. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):981. doi: 10.1167/7.9.981.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Identifying graphic invariants holding throughout the all history of art is an important aim not only for a comparative study of art history, but also from the perspective of visual science, interested in the mechanisms underlying visual perception. In the present study, we describe how painters use the same graphic solutions to represent motion in garments across countries and centuries. A pilot experiment, using 160 paintings representative of all main western European art movements from the XIII to the XX century, shows that different artists represented motion in garments by means of lines having the same pattern of orientation, curvature and convergence. The strongest perception of dynamism was obtained using a major number of curved, convergent and diagonal lines. On the contrary straight, parallel and orthogonal lines leaded to a clear impression of stativity. Expt 1 demonstrates, with a smaller sample of paintings (16, i.e. two per century) that orientation, curvature and convergence of lines can be used as good predictors of perceived motion. Expt 2 shows how the same garments, isolated from the context of the paintings, still give different dynamism impressions according to the same rules. Finally, Expt 3 confirmed the same results when the stimuli were a set of squares of fixed size, containing only high contrast lines reproducing the geometrical patterns present in the stimuli showed in Expts 1 and 2. Our data suggest the existence of a perceptual mechanism underlying motion perception that specifically recognizes orientation, curvature and parallelism of lines as cues of motion in a static pattern. These results seem to suggest that three-dimensional indices in a two-dimensional static image can trigger an impression of motion.
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