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Proceedings Paper

Image analysis of paintings by computer graphics synthesis: an investigation of the illumination in Georges de la Tour's Christ in the carpenter's studio
Author(s): David G. Stork; Yasuo Furuichi
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Paper Abstract

Computer graphics models of tableaus in paintings provide a principled and controlled method for exploring alternate explanations of artists' praxis. We illustrate the power of computer graphics by testing the recent claim that Georges de la Tour secretly built an optical projector to execute Christ in the carpenter's studio, specifically that he traced projected images in two "exposures," with the illuminant in a different position in each. The theory's originator adduces as evidence his informal impressions that the shadows and highlights in the depicted image imply that the illuminant is in positions other than that of the depicted candle. We tested this projection claim by creating a computer graphics model of the tableau and adjusting the location of the model's illuminants so as to reproduce as closely as possible the pattern of shadows and highlights in the depicted scene. We found that for one "exposure" the model illuminant was quite close to the depicted candle, rather than in the position demanded by the projection theory. We found that for the other "exposure" no single illuminant location explained all highlights perfectly but the evidence was most consistent with the illuminant being in the location of the candle. Our simulation evidence therefore argues against the projection theory for this painting, a conclusion that comports with those from earlier studies of this and other paintings by de la Tour. We conclude with general lessons and suggestions on the use of computer graphics in the study of two-dimensional visual art.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 March 2008
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 6810, Computer Image Analysis in the Study of Art, 68100J (18 March 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.759681
Show Author Affiliations
David G. Stork, Ricoh Innovations, Inc. (United States)
Stanford Univ. (United States)
Yasuo Furuichi, Consultant (Japan)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6810:
Computer Image Analysis in the Study of Art
David G. Stork; Jim Coddington, Editor(s)

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