Image Studies

Image Studies

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KEYWORDS:  Camera Lucida / Camera Obscura / Cave Paintings / Computed Tomography / Copernicus

CAMERA LUCIDA (latin for ‘light chamber’) is an optical device used by artists as a drawing aid for the accurate rendering of perspective. It works by superimposing the subject being drawn onto the drawing surface and it was patented in 1807, although the optics involved were known of much earlier.  It was famously used by William Fox-Talbot in 1833, and later by David Hockney. Hockney  controversially suggests that the Camera Lucida was used by artists such as  Caravaggio, Velázquez and da Vinci, in his book Secret Knowledge  and his 2003 TV documentary of the same name.

CAMERA OBSCURA (latin for ‘dark chamber’) is an optical device that in its simplest form uses a pinhole through which an external scene is projected into a box or a room. A lens can be added to form a larger and crisper image. Camera Obscura technology, dating back as far as the fifth century BC and mentioned in Euclid’s Optics,  was described in detail by Da Vinci in Codex Atlanticus (1502). Like the Camera Lucida, this device was discussed by David Hockney in Secret Knowledge, and mentioned in the video link above.

CAVE PAINTINGS in Asia and Europe date back some 40,000 years. These figurative paintings, mostly of animals, were not merely decorative features, but it is thought that they were also a form of communication as many have been discovered in areas with little or no evidence of human habitation. There is speculation as to the original purpose and meaning of prehistoric cave paintings, such as those discovered at Lascaux, with some suggesting that they are tied to the rituals of hunting and others viewing them as early star charts, for example.

COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CT), Or computerised axial tomography (CAT) is a specialised X-ray test, giving relatively clear pictures of the inside of the body. In particular, it can give good pictures of the body’s soft tissues, such as muscles, organs, large blood vessels, the brain and nerves, which do not show on ordinary X-ray pictures.

COPERNICUS was an astronomer, born in 1473 in Thorn (modern day Torun) in Poland. The central theory of Copernicus’ major work De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) is that the planets move around the sun, with the Earth rotating daily on its axis and revolving yearly around the sun. This challenged the established view that the Earth was stationary at the centre of the universe, with all the planets, the Moon and the Sun rotating around it. Copernicus died in 1543, the same year that De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium was published.

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