Perspective, as Vredeman the Vries puts it in his introduction, is an ‘eyesight looking upon or through [objects], on paper, canvas, panels, or walls, shown in painting by colours or otherwise’. The basic principle of perspective, according to him, is the existence of vanishing points into which all lines converge. These vanishing points rest on the horizon, the imaginary line that we see if we are looking straight ahead. The most important vanishing point, the eye point, need not be in the centre, but depends on the position of the viewer. Vredeman creates a grid of five linear components into which any object can be placed, to give an illusion of space. These five lines are the ‘base line or foot line’, indicating the level on which the imaginary viewer stands, the ‘perpendicular or upright line’, the 'horizontal level or eye line’, the ‘diagonal or oblique lines'', converging at secondary vanishing points, and the ‘parallel or shortening lines’ that converge at the eye point. His premise is that everything above the horizon or eye line can only be seen from below, and that everything below that line can only be seen from above. He displays his theories in the 73 illustrations in this book. The result is fascinating. According to his own description, plate 45 of the first part shows in the foreground a staircase leading upwards from the tiled floor to the left, and from the same level three steps down. The illustration represents a palace, built in the modern way, with a gallery before the eye point with four columns on both sides supporting cross vaults.
The architect, painter and engraver Hans Vredeman de Vries was born in 1527 in Leeuwarden. Soon after finishing his training as a painter he became interested in architecture and studied the works of Serlio and Vitruvius. From 1555 onwards he published many books on different architectural subjects, including studies on ornaments. After his death, about 1606, his work was still reprinted many times. As an architect he worked in Antwerp, Hamburg, Wolfenbüttel, Gdánsk and Prague, but as far as we know none of his buildings has survived. His ultimate influence are his books, especially those on perspective, an art which he studied for more than forty years, according to the ballad published in the preliminaries.
Perspective dat is de hooch-gheroemde conste eens schij- nende in oft door-siende ooghen-ghesichtes punt, op effen staende muer, penneel oft doeck. J. Vredeman de Vries. - 2º oblong. 1330 D 59, plate 45