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    ,

    ,

    ,

    l

    I

    /

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    9March

    30 April

    This

    book is in three parts. The first is the visual presentation

    of

    a thesis I have been

    developing over the past two years. The second is a collection

    of

    extracts

    from

    some

    of

    the documents I came across dur ing my research. And the third is a selection

    of

    notes,

    essays and letters written to clarify my ideas as they developed and

    as

    part of a dialogue

    with

    Martin Kemp, Charles Falco, John Walsh and

    other

    experts.This correspondence

    tells the story of my investigations.

    The thesis I am

    putting

    forward here

    is that

    from the early fifteenth century many

    Western artists used optics - by which I mean mir rors and lenses (or acombination of

    the two - to create living projections. Some artists used these projected images directly

    to produce drawings and paintings, and before long this new way of depicting the world

    - this new way of seeing - had become widespread. Many art historians have argued

    that certain painters used the camera obscura in their work - Canaletto and Vermeer,

    in particular, are often cited - but,

    to

    my knowledge, no one has suggested that optics

    were used

    as

    widely or

    as

    early

    as

    I am arguing here.

    In

    early 19991 made a

    drawing

    using a camera lucida. lt was an experiment, based on

    a hunch

    that

    Ingres, in the first decades of

    the

    nineteenth century, may have occasionally

    used this little optical device, then

    newly

    invented. My curiosity had been aroused when

    I

    went

    to an exhibition of his portraits at London s National Gallery and was struck by

    how

    small

    the

    drawings were, yet

    so

    uncannily accurate . I

    know

    how difficult

    it is to

    achieve

    such precision, and wondered how he had done it . What followed led

    to

    this book.

    At first, I found the camera lucid a very difficult to use. It doesnt pro ject a real image

    of

    he subject, but an illusion of one in

    the

    eye. When you move your head everything

    moves with it, and the artist must learn to make very quick notati ons to fix the position of

    2

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    4 8

    Rob

    ert Ca

    mp in

    7

    Ican be certain

    th t

    Robert Campin and

    Jan

    van Eyck knew bout mirrors and lenses - the

    two basic elements of the modern camera - for

    they painted some in several

    oftheir

    pictures

    of he 1430s and, at

    th t

    time, painters and

    mirror-makers were

    both

    members

    of

    the same

    guild). ln the Campin, the mirror s convex

    easier

    to

    make than a flat mirror); and in the

    van Eyck, Canon van der Paele holds a pair

    of

    spectacles. Lenses and mirrors were stil l rare

    then, and artists would have been fascinated by

    the strange effects they produced. s people

    who

    made images, they must have been

    amazed th t whole figures, even whole rooms,

    could be seen in

    just

    a small convex mirror.

    Surely it is no coincidence th t such mirrors

    arrived in painting at the same

    time as

    greater

    individuality appeared in portraiture.

    6

    Jan

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    7 < the visu l

    evide 1ce

    )

    \

    (

    L

    These photographs show the process in more detail. At the

    top

    left you

    can see

    the projection on the paper as I make

    my

    initia l marks, two stages of which you

    can see

    top right.

    After making

    the

    measurements, I take

    down

    the paper and

    complete the drawing from life (the finished portrait is

    opposite). The subject,

    who

    sits outside throughout,

    can

    see

    very

    little

    of

    wh t

    is

    going on in the room.

    He

    is

    not

    even

    aware th t the mirror is there above

    nd

    eft).

    I

    have

    been

    told

    by some art historians th t there

    are

    written accounts of similar set-ups in the fifteenth and

    sixteenth centuries, but as yet I

    have

    not located them.

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    8 6

    Jean -Auguste-Dominique Ingres

    The portrait above right

    is

    one of

    he

    few surviving drawings by Jan

    van Eyck.lt is said

    to

    be of Cardinal Niccol6 Albergati, and was drawn

    while he was in Bruges on a three-day trip in December 1431. To me

    it has the

    look of an Ingres drawing, like the one above, for

    the

    physiognomy is perfectly accurate while

    the

    clothes are

    less

    precise,

    possibly eyeballed.The Cardinal's pupils are sharply contracted, as if

    he were in a strong light.

    As

    I discovered

    with my

    mirror-lens set-up,

    you need a strong

    light for any 'natural' projection.

    Van

    Eyck 'sdrawing

    of

    he

    Cardinal

    is

    about 48 life

    size

    but

    the

    painting opposite)

    is

    41 larger than

    the

    drawing. What is amazing is

    that

    when

    you enlarge the drawing by that amount and lay it over

    the painting, many of

    he

    features line up

    exactly the

    forehead and

    the

    right cheek,

    the

    nose and

    the

    nostrils, the mouth and

    the

    lips,

    the

    eyes and

    the

    laughter lines - all align perfectly. Now shift

    the

    drawing

    78