Escher @ Chiostro del Bramante – Rome

In one of my first blog posts I confessed my lack of cultural involvement when I am at home in Rome. In this long Christmas break I managed to visit at least one exhibition so far, which made me feel like I have broken the bad habit- so something to be proud of. I went to see the Escher exhibition at Il Chiostro del Bramante which is the cloister adjacent to Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace, a church in central Rome. The space is absolutely beautiful and seeing such a modern and innovative (we might not see it as such today but at the time Escher lived and worked it certainly was!) art exhibition in an ancient, traditional, and once religious space.

Escher is a very famous artist, most educated children would spot his geometric drawings and his work is generally considered cool by more or less everyone so I guess he doesn’t need much introduction. The interesting thing was, as soon as I entered the first room of the exhibition I realized I was just one of those innumerable people saying “oh yeah of course I know Escher, yes I like his work…”  but who actually don’t know anything about him and his artworks. I guess this is quite common nowadays. I often realize how the younger generations know everything but at the same time so little about it, and most of us (including me) is ignorant in relation to the means of education available to first world countries. But that’s another story, back to Escher now.

I really enjoyed the exhibition, it is always interesting and good to learn something new. I also very much appreciated the fact that some artworks of other artists contemporary to Escher where exhibited to show the influence he had on the art world and also to show the same kind of style but adopted differently by someone else. Escher spent 12 years in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century and he also lived in Rome ( – in an apartment which is literally 2 minutes away from the house where I was born and lived until I was around 12 years old!).

The exhibition came out to be a perfect revision of the first term at uni as Escher applied all theories of Gestalt to his work. It sometimes was just a bit confusing because the explanations at the exhibition (which I always read very carefully) did not exactly match what we studied in class (and what we have on the slides of our presentation). On our slide about “4. Law of Closure – Humans tend to enclose a space by completing a contour and ignoring gaps in the figure. ” we have two images as examples, one of them is :


At the exhibition I found exactly the same triangle and one could read: ” Principle of the Kanisza Triangle: It is not difficult to see a white triangle in the middle of this drawing, which seems to be superimposed on top of a triangle with black edges and three discs. However, in reality it does not exist and was never drawn. It is the result of the visual interaction of the discs, each of which is missing a wedge, and suitably positioned black corners, This image was invented and studies by Gaetano Kanisza, an Italian psychologist and painter from Trieste who devoted himself to this research.”

So the principle of seeing a form which does not actually exist and drawing contours in our head is present in both explanations. Still the information given is different and the name of the laws as well.

Another theory of Gestalt got mixed up and I felt a bit confused. On our slides it says “3. Law of Good Continuation – Humans tend to continue contours whenever the elements of the pattern establish an implied direction. People tend to draw a good continuous line.” And ” 5. Law of Preagnanz – A stimulus will be organized into a as good a figure as possible. HerUntitled-1e, good means, symmetrical, simple and regular. This figure appears to the eye as a square overlapping a triangle, not a combination of several complicated shapes.”

At the exhibition instead one could read: “Legge della buona forma – Principle of good continuation

IMG_8660 copyOur perception of several elements that regularly divide a plane always seeks out the simplest form. This is know as “good continuation”. So in the first drawing, the “double dove-tailed” module repeated on the plane ends up generating a perception of larger squares and rhombuses. The same perceptive phenomenon can be observed in the second drawing, where the star or Maltese cross disappears causing a “carpet” of squares and rhombuses.”

So basically it seems like what we learned to be the Law of Praegnanz is called the Law of Good Continuity here. Why is this? Or is it just a bad translation (I’m not 100% sure “Buona Forma” (which literally means good form or shape) is not equivalent to “Good Continuity”. Whereas Praegnanz means something like pithiness or conciseness. So I must admit I am a bit confused about what is what but still I got the principle and the content of the laws so I think that’s what really matters. It was interesting to see though how Escher applied Gestalt Theory to most of his work to create optical illusions which made him so famous.

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