Size Matters. Scale and Measure in Photography


Through the rendering of perspective constructions, photography transmits an illusion of spatiality, which, by overcoming the two-dimensionality of photographic prints, evokes the spatial experience of the observer. This illusionistic realism – of which the public was well aware – characterized the new medium from the outset and determined how it was received. So no one would say that the weathervane of the Bargello in Florence is larger than the dome of the cathedral – even if their sizes are inverted in the photograph. In the detail of the Hermitage of Montesiepi the eye is capable of perceiving the deep concavity of the dome, and not just a series of black and white concentric circles. Clues to the actual dimensional relationships can be given by objects, whose approximate size is part of the collective knowledge, like the pearls on the small Georgian enamel [emaille] tablet are a clear sign that it must be a very small object. Shadows represent a separate chapter: they depend on the light and the position of the sun, they vary in shape and size and can make the objects that produce them seem smaller or larger than they actually are. Like the shadows of the sculptures on the façade of St. Peter's, which in the photograph take up almost the entire width of the column. The images created by shadows can be compared to some extent with photography. They are also produced by light, they are two-dimensional and their scale can vary. However, while photography reproduces objects illusionistically, shadows on the other hand represent a reference to a real object, such as the shadow of Giotto's bell tower on the dome of the cathedral.

Studio Manelli: the Marzocco on the top of the Bargello tower in Florence, silver-gelatin print, 24.7 x 18.7 cm, before 1935, inv. no. 105649

Giulio Guzzoni: Detail of the dome of San Galgano’s hermitage in Montesiepi (Chiusdino, Siena), baryt print, 23.3 x 17.7 cm, before 1960, inv. no. 164856

Horst Fenchel: ventilation window of the power station in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station (designed by Angiolo Mazzoni 1934), baryt print, 17.4 x 22.2 cm, 2001, inv. no. 558086

Ralph Liebermann: side facade of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, baryt print (inverted), 25.2 x 20.2 cm, 1991, inv. no. 491630

Droor Maayan: Pantocrator Christ on the cover of a shrine, 6 x 3 cm, Tbilisi (Georgia), digital photograph, 22.3 x 16.1 (print), 2006, inv. no. 592352

Unidentified photographer: Piazza San Pietro in Rome, albumin print, 25.2 x 37.6 cm, before 1890, inv. no. 13872

Romualdo Moscioni: side facade of San Nicola in Bari, albumin print, 38.4 x 25.2 cm, before 1893, inv. no. 4169

Roberto Arturo Ginori: The shadow of Giotto’s tower over the dome of Florence’s Cathedral, silver-gelatin print, 17.6 x 23.5 cm, 1935, inv. no. 103302

© KHI in Florence | 28.11.2020 14:47:13