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Cimelia Photographica

The Right View

Photographing sculptures was very well suited to the technical capabilities of early photography. The immobility of the objects made it possible to photograph them in spite of the long exposure times. The problem here was that the objects were often situated in the context of a museum or an architectural context and the camera lens, as a “relentless eye of reality”, records not only the work of art but also its surroundings. Photographers often dealt with this by photographing the sculptures in front of a cloth, as done with the group of figures by Giovanni Pisano in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua, for example. The aesthetics of sculpture photography changed fundamentally as people started to retouch negatives in the 1860s. From then on, the background of the negative was frequently covered with opaque substances, whereby the objects could be removed from their context and portrayed on their own. However, the question remained as to the “correct” perspective of the three-dimensional works, a subject discussed vehemently among experts on the history of art. In this context, Heinrich Wölfflin published a short essay in 1896 with the title “How to Photograph Sculptures”. In this essay, he complains about the ignorance of most photographers regarding “the angle to the figure at which he has to set up his machine” so that the “intellectual eye perceives” the perspective “as a blessing” and the statement made by the work is not affected by the incorrect perspective.


Romualdo Moscioni: “‘Colossus of Barletta’ in Barletta”, albumin print, before 1893. Photograph: 37.9 x 26.4 cm (inventory no. 4210)

Giorgio Sommer: “Tomb of Lodovico Aldomorisco by Antonio Baboccio in San Lorenzo in Naples”, albumin print, estate of Cornel von Fabriczy. Photograph: 25.3 x 20.1 cm (inventory no. 18081)

Romualdo Moscioni: “Marble Pulpit in Santa Maria Assunta in Altamura”, albumin print, before 1893. Photograph: 26.8 x 39.5 cm (inventory no. 4150)

Jean Laurent: “Circle of Pompeo Leoni: Tomb of Phillip II in the Castle Chapel of the Escorial near Madrid”, albumin print, before 1886. Photograph: 27.8 x 39.3 cm (inventory no. 542530)

Armoni – Raffaelli: “Angel of the Annunciation from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Orvieto”, albumin print, before 1898. Photograph: 25.3 x 18.6 cm (inventory no. 2390)

Unidentified photographer: “Giovanni Pisano: Maria with Child and Two Angels, Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua”, silver-gelatine print, around 1898. Photograph: 20.1 x 22.7 cm (inventory no. 333274)

Unidentified photographer: “Circle of Antonio Rizzo: Saint Sebastian from the Tozzi Collection in Florence”, carbon print. Photograph: 37.3 x 25.3 cm (inventory no. 75852)

Unidentified photographer: “Circle of Antonio Rizzo: Saint Sebastian from the Tozzi Collection in Florence”, carbon print. Photograph: 36.8 x 24.8 cm (inventory no. 75853)

Harry Burton: “Two Statues of Saints from the Harry Burton Collection in Florence”, aristotype, 1904-1905, estate of Cornel von Fabriczy. Photograph: 12.9 x 10.3 cm (inventory no. 18246)

Unidentified photographer: “Equestrain Statue of Gattamelata by Donatello in Padua”, albumin print. Photograph: 25.8 x 34.8 cm (inventory no. 13938)

Unidentified photographer: “Saint Catherine from the Former Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin”, retouched albumin print. Photograph: 39.3 x 25.2 cm (inventory no. 435632)

Adolphe Braun & Cie.: “Michelangelo Buonarroti: Tondo Taddei from The Royal Academy of Arts in London”, carbon print, before 1905. Board: 70 x 53.5 cm (inventory no. 5126)




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Unidentified photographer: “Giovanni Pisano: Maria with Child and Two Angels, Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua”, silver-gelatine print, around 1898. Photograph: 20.1 x 22.7 cm (inventory no. 333274)

© KHI in Florence | 25.10.2021 16:12:39