The Art of the Science of Renaissance Painting
Falco, Charles M. (Optical Sciences Center, University of Arizona, Tucson) & Hockney, David (
Invited Paper – Proceedings of the Symposium on Effective Presentation & Interpretation in Museums (The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 2003)
One of us (DH) observed an almost “photographic” quality in certain drawings and paintings from as early as the Renaissance that led him to make an extensive visual investigation of western art of the past 1000 years. The result of this investigation was the revolutionary claim that artists even of the prominence of van Eyck and Bellini must have used optical aids. However, many art historians insisted there was no supporting evidence for such a remarkable assertion. This paper discusses some of the optical evidence we subsequently discovered that convincingly demonstrates optical instruments were in use by artists as early as c1425, nearly 200 years earlier than widely thought possible. This discovery that optics had been used to project images coincides with the remarkable transformation in the reality of portraits that occurred early in the 15th century.