14 March 2005 Did Georges de la Tour use optical projections while painting Christ in the Carpenter’s Studio?
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Recently it has been theorized that some painters as early as 1420 used concave mirrors (and, later, converging lenses) to project real inverted images onto their supports which they then traced and painted over. We consider a specific painting adduced as evidence for this bold theory, the Lorainnese Baroque master Georges de la Tour’s Christ in the carpenter’s studio (1645). We perform analyses of the reflections and shadows -- “cast” shadows and “form” shadows -- to infer the source(s) of illumination. We find compelling evidence that this source is the candle flame depicted within the painting and held by Christ. We find it implausible that the source is direct solar illumination, which has the intensity demanded by the projection theory, or artificial illumination as hypothesized by theory proponents. Similar analyses of several other paintings by de la Tour uniformly support the conclusion that the illumination is small and artificial within the space of the tableau (i.e., a candle), not extremely powerful illumination from outside the tableau. We created a very simple computer graphics model to test and illustrate part of our conclusions. Our research is the first application of technical shadow analysis to the question whether artists as early as the 15th century used optical projections when painting. Careful reading of the historical record of de la Tour’s working methods supports our technical results and extend the growing image analytic methods and historical sources rebutting the theory.
© (2005) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
David G. Stork, David G. Stork, } "Did Georges de la Tour use optical projections while painting Christ in the Carpenter’s Studio?", Proc. SPIE 5685, Image and Video Communications and Processing 2005, (14 March 2005); doi: 10.1117/12.582984; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.582984


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