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Size Matters. Scale and Measure in Photography

Distortion

Enthusiastic claims about the presumed objectivity of photography accompanied the technical evolution of the new medium for the entire 19th century. It quickly became established as a work tool for art historians, for whom the photographic reproduction of the works they were studying soon became essential. On the contrary, for a long time the debate did not cover the awareness that photographs, more than being an ‘authentic’ rendering of objects, provide a subjective or estranged vision of the objects produced by the choice of perspective and framing as well as the manipulation of negatives and positives, and are capable of influencing the perception of the observer – specifically as regards dimensions. By highlighting or cancelling out the context (e.g. by retouching or shielding the background with a cloth), but also as a result of the shortcomings of the first photographic techniques (e.g. poorly lit objects), the relations of scale can be highlighted or masked; focusing on a detail can lead to a distorted perception. Thus without the help of a caption few people would be able to assess the size of the farmer with a plough in Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai, a massive detail of the painted floor. Decontextualized by the close-up shot, the rusticated ashlar work of Palazzo dei Diamanti is more reminiscent of a graphic work by Escher than an architectural detail. And no one would connect the detail of a grey fabric with the habit of St. Clare. Whereas in the photograph of the wooden Etruscan figure the actual size is indicated by a metre rule; and even the wide space left free around the figurine suggests its small size.


Romualdo Moscioni: column capital in the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari, albumin print, 39.7 x 26.6 cm, before 1893, inv. no. 4180

Romualdo Moscioni: column capital in the Cathedral of Bitonto (Bari), albumin print, 38.8 x 25.7 cm, before 1893, inv. no. 4236

Unidentified photographer: View of one sacristy wall in the Cathedral of Monopoli (Bari), albumin print, 37.3 x 26.4 cm, before 1903, inv. no. 4293

Unidentified photographer: View of the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa from the Santa Chiara hospital, silver-gelatin print, 22.6 x 28.4 cm, between 1895 e 1926, inv. no. 30353

Rabatti & Domingie Photography: Ploughing, ca. 500 x 250 cm, detail of the floor decoration of the Sala Verde in Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai, Florence, digital photograph, 22.5 x 17.8 cm (print), 2009, inv. no. 598595

Rabatti & Domingie Photography: The Sala Verde of Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai in Florence, digital photograph, 22.5 x 13.5 cm (print), 2009, inv. no. 598359

Hans Gerhard Evers?: rustication of Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara (detail), baryt print, 23.4 x 17.1 cm, before 1943, inv. no. 136999

Pietro Poppi: Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, albumin print, 25.5 x 19.5 cm, before 1911, inv. no. 12715

Luigi Artini: detail of St Claire’s tunic preserved in the convent of Santa Chiara in Assisi, silver gelatin print on baryt paper, 23,7 x 18 cm, around 1978, inv. no. 363749

Luigi Artini: St Claire’s robe in the convent of Santa Chiara in Assisi, max. length 175 cm, baryt print, 23.7 x 18 cm, around 1978, inv. no. 363747

Luigi Artini: St Claire’s robe in the convent of Santa Chiara in Assisi, max. length 175 cm, baryt print, 23.7 x 18 cm, around 1978, inv. no. 363748

Unidentified photographer: miniature ivory sculpture of a woman with child, formerly Campanari Collection, Rome, h. ca. 6 cm, silver-gelatin print, 11.8 x 16.5 cm, before 1930, inv. no. 65725

Unidentified Photographer: porphyry statue of Hera, with an attached head of Athena, Bagshot House near London (now British Museum), h. 180 cm, silver-gelatin print, 24.0 x 13.6 cm, before 1933, inv. no. 86099




© KHI in Florence | 03.12.2020 21:14:18