Investigation on the implementation of optical refinements in the Parthenon frieze reliefs
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Issues related to visual representations as perspective distortions, optical illusions and refinements were known in antiquity, since a number of architectural monuments are illustrative of such practices. The Parthenon of Acropolis in Athens is a relevant example where this knowledge was probably applied. The present paper aims at providing analytically documented evidence of whether optical refinements were considered in adjusting the background level inclination of the Parthenon west frieze reliefs and in the design of the carved human figures. For this reason, the implementation of optical refinements for avoiding perspective distortions is elucidated and the calculations for their prediction described. Employing this mathematical analysis, optical refinements related to the west frieze reliefs and their background inclination were determined. These diminish optical illusions when a region of the frieze blocks’ is observed from a viewpoint on the stylobates’ level between two columns. Also presented are characteristic anthropometric proportions per interna- -tional standards, and their modifications when optical refinements are applied. These modified proportions of a human body are compared to those of human figures carved on the Parthenon west frieze blocks. The latter were determined via evaluation of their digital data obtained by means of 3D laser scanning. What was revealed, was an impressive conformity between the reliefs’ background inclination along with the depicted human body proportions of the Parthenon frieze, and the corresponding ones calculated for avoiding optical illusions due to perspective distortions. These findings give substantial weight to the hypothesis that optical refinements were implemented in the Parthenon west frieze. However, they cannot exclude the fact that the human body proportions followed aesthetic rules and norms of the Parthenon construction period.
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