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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Optics at the dawn of the Renaissance
Author(s): David Hockney; Charles M. Falco

Paper Abstract

Recently, one of us (DH) observed that certain drawings and paintings from as early as the Renaissance seemed almost "photographic" in detail. An extensive visual investigation of western art of the past 1000 years resulted in the revolutionary claim that artists even of the prominence of van Eyck and Bellini must have used optical aids. However, art historians insisted there was no supporting evidence for such a remarkable assertion. This paper presents some of the optical evidence we subsequently discovered that convincingly demonstrates optical instruments were in use - by artists, not scientists - nearly 200 years earlier than widely thought possible, and that accounts for the remarkable transformation in the reality of portraits that occurred early in the 15th century.

Paper Details

Date Published: 6 October 2003
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 9663, Eighth International Topical Meeting on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics, 966308 (6 October 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.2207326
Show Author Affiliations
David Hockney, Consultant (United States)
Charles M. Falco, Optical Sciences Ctr., Univ. of Arizona (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9663:
Eighth International Topical Meeting on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics
Barry L. Shoop; Grover Swartzlander, Editor(s)

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