The Painter's Manual  

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Artist and Model in the Studio (detail) by Albrecht Dürer, first published in The Painter's Manual in 1525.
Artist and Model in the Studio (detail) by Albrecht Dürer, first published in The Painter's Manual in 1525.

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Underweysung der messung mit dem zirckel un richtscheyt in Linien ebenen und gantzen corporen[1][2] (English: Instruction in measurement with compass and ruler, in lines, planes, and whole bodies) is a work by Albrecht Dürer first published in 1525. It features the famous woodcut Artist and Model in the Studio[3]. It is a book on geometry and linear perspective and was published at Nuremberg.

In English, the book is both known as The Painter's Manual and The Four Books on Measurement.



It was in Bologna that Dürer was taught (possibly by Luca Pacioli or Bramante) the principles of linear perspective, and evidently became familiar with the 'costruzione legittima' in a written description of these principles found only, at this time, in the unpublished treatise of Piero della Francesca. He was also familiar with the 'abbreviated construction' as described by Alberti and the geometrical construction of shadows, a technique of Leonardo da Vinci. Although Dürer made no innovations in these areas, he is notable as the first Northern European to treat matters of visual representation in a scientific way, and with understanding of Euclidean principles.

First book

The first book focuses on linear geometry. Dürer's geometric constructions include helices, conchoids and epicycloids. He also draws on Apollonius, and Johannes Werner's 'Libellus super viginti duobus elementis conicis' of 1522.

Second book

The second book moves onto two dimensional geometry, i.e. the construction of regular polygons. Here Dürer favours the methods of Ptolemy over Euclid.

Third book

The third book applies these principles of geometry to architecture, engineering and typography. In architecture Dürer cites Vitruvius but elaborates his own classical designs and columns. In typography, Dürer depicts the geometric construction of the Latin alphabet, relying on Italian precedent. However, his construction of the Gothic alphabet is based upon an entirely different modular system.

Fourth book

The fourth book completes the progression of the first and second by moving to three-dimensional forms and the construction of polyhedra. Here Dürer discusses the five Platonic solids, as well as seven Archimedean semi-regular solids, as well as several of his own invention. In all these, Dürer shows the objects as nets. Finally, Dürer discusses the Delian Problem and moves on to the 'construzione legittima', a method of depicting a cube in two dimensions through linear perspective. In addition to these geometrical constructions, Dürer discusses in this last book of Underweysung der Messung an assortment of mechanisms for drawing in perspective from models and provides woodcut illustrations of these methods that are often reproduced in discussions of perspective.

External links

  • Vnderweysung der messung mit dem zirckel vnd richtscheyt (= Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirkel und Richtscheyt), bei Hieronymus Andreae, Nürnberg 1525 (Digitalisat)

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