Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Optical Projection in Renaissance Art: Did the Great Masters Cheat?



Optical Projection in Renaissance Art:

Did the Great Masters Cheat?

by Barry Mazor

June 2003

June cover imageHow researcher Dr. David Stork came up with hard data to refute claims that a classic painting used tools to achieve astonishing perspective.

Issues in art history can be on the esoteric side, but the question of whether great Masters of perspective and realism of the Renaissance used scientific tools-cheated, in effect-to achieve their astonishing visual breakthroughs has been of more than passing and specialized interest.

The extent of the controversy's reach became obvious on a recent CBS 60 Minutes broadcast in which artist David Hockney and physicist Charles Falco claimed the famed masterpiece Portrait of Arnolfini and His Wife, by Jan van Eyck (1395?-1441), was created using instruments.

Arnolfini (focal length).That might have been the end of it had not Dr. David Stork, an art historian and image analysis researcher at Ricoh, revisited the issue. Stork recently presented a paper entitled, Did Jan van Eyck Employ Optical Projections When Painting Portrait of Arnolfini and his Wife? (Ricoh Innovations Tech Report CRC-TR-0303), which offers a new solution to the question. Intrigued, the Advanced Imaging team asked him to detail his work and findings directly-not the least of all since it suggests new areas for implementation of image analysis techniques in analyzing art and artifacts.

Advanced Imaging: Let's set the stage a little first. How did you come to combine your expertise in art history and electrical engineering? Had you been doing experiments in this area regularly before this?

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