Elisa Spataro

Elisa Spataro

Hanna Kiel Fellow
Landscape in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Perspective Machines, Instruments, and Devices for the Mechanical Representation of Nature
Spataro, Varelli


Elisa Spataro studied at Sapienza University of Rome, where she received her PhD in early modern Art History in 2019. She wrote a doctoral dissertation about the relationship between landscape painting and theatrical stage design from the late sixteenth century to the first decades of the seventeenth century in Italy. Since then, she has focused on theories and practices of landscape painting between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century, publishing articles in journals and anthologies. She has recently been awarded a publication prize by Sapienza University of Rome for her PhD dissertation. Pittura di paesaggio e scenografia teatrale. Teoria e pratica artistica (1580-1640) will be the title of her forthcoming book.


Project Summary

This project investigates the use of perspective machines, devices, and instruments for the representation of natural and urban landscape, studying the ways in which this practice affected the canons of landscape painting between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries in Italy. The idea that landscape painting could give the illusion of a real space seen with the eyes and traversed with the body, all while simply staring at a picture, is expressed by seventeenth-century beholders, collectors, and theorists. While early modern landscape painting has often been considered as the representation of an abstracted vision of nature, this project seeks to reveal a different interest in the reproduction of natural forms as they appeared to the eyes, before artists started using the portable camera obscura. The research will show that new types of perspective devices and their diffusion in Italy, France, and northern Europe led to innovations in conceiving and constructing landscapes in painting, enabling a more detailed understanding of visual and material culture, along with the relationship between artistic practice and scientific innovations which stimulated the process of creating landscape images in the early modern period.