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10 March 2011 A computer graphics reconstruction and optical analysis of scale anomalies in Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus
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Abstract
David Hockney has argued that the right hand of the disciple, thrust to the rear in Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus (1606), is anomalously large as a result of the artist refocusing a putative secret lens-based optical projector and tracing the image it projected onto his canvas. We show through rigorous optical analysis that to achieve such an anomalously large hand image, Caravaggio would have needed to make extremely large, conspicuous and implausible alterations to his studio setup, moving both his purported lens and his canvas nearly two meters between "exposing" the disciple's left hand and then his right hand. Such major disruptions to his studio would have impeded -not aided- Caravaggio in his work. Our optical analysis quantifies these problems and our computer graphics reconstruction of Caravaggio's studio illustrates these problems. In this way we conclude that Caravaggio did not use optical projections in the way claimed by Hockney, but instead most likely set the sizes of these hands "by eye" for artistic reasons.
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David G. Stork and Yasuo Furuichi "A computer graphics reconstruction and optical analysis of scale anomalies in Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus", Proc. SPIE 7869, Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art II, 78690K (10 March 2011); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.873188
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