Comments on Seventeenth Century Lenses and Projection. - NMS Research Repository
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Book chapter

Comments on Seventeenth Century Lenses and Projection.



Various attempts have been made to understand the role of the camera obscura in Renaissance painting. This study tries to understand the actual practice necessary to produce the image. Based on original artifacts as well as reconstructions I will first explore the functioning and making of the device, especially that of the lenses. From there I will illuminate the practice required to project and control the image. In order to comprehend historic practice I will draw on comparions from astronomical lenses and especially magic lantern projections. I will try to show how historic observers could rely on their optical instruments and media and thereby were able to come to a judgement on what they saw and what they wanted to see. I will conclude that not the quality of the projected image but first of all the observer’s visual judgement was at the very center of camera obscura practice.


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  • Resource type

    Book chapter

  • Institution
    • National Museums Scotland

  • Series name
    • Preprint / Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte

  • Book title
    • Inside the Camera Obscura – Optics and art under the spell of the projected image

  • Editor
    • Lefèvre, Wolfgang
  • Issue
    • 333

  • Pagination
    • 141-146

  • Publisher
    • Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

  • Place of publication
    • Berlin

  • Official URL
  • Library of Congress Classification
    • T1

  • Additional information
    • Full text pre print version freely available at the official URL