TEST CASE 1: Lorenzo Lotto's Husband and wife 1523-4

Hockney and Falco see in this painting evidence for the use of a lens or mirror.

Husband and Wife, Lorenzo Lotto, 1543
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Detail of the carpet
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This painting includes an oriental carpet, with a complex pattern, draped over the edge of a table. Strangely, part of the carpet pattern is out of focus. We see this in the middle of the carpet, at the furthest edge of the keyhole pattern. Paintings, painted by eye, can never be out of focus because our eyes automatically keep in focus what we look at. Why then is this carpet partly out of focus? It is because the carpet was traced - traced for an obvious reason. Complex patterns are difficult to draw freehand in perspective. So the artist must have traced an image of the carpet, which had been projected onto the painting's surface using a lens or mirror.

The whole carpet could not have been projected in a single image. Instead, half the carpet would have been projected as one image, which would then have been focused and traced. Then the image of the other half would have been projected; the mirror or lens would have been moved to re-focus that image; and then it, too, would have been traced. This would have produced, on the painting's surface, two adjacent images traced under different focusing conditions. Where they met, they would not have matched. So the artist "joined" the two images by painting this region out of focus. This out-of-focus region suggests that the image was traced. We reach the same conclusion from analyzing the perspective.

The vanishing point is the single point to which the perspective lines converge, for a picture drawn in perspective. A picture, drawn by eye, is drawn with a single vanishing point. A picture, traced from a projected image that was refocused, will show several vanishing points. Each vanishing point defines a different perspective resulting from different focusing conditions. For the carpet in the Lorenzo Lotto painting, we see two different sets of perspective lines and two different vanishing points. Hence the painting was traced from a projected image, under different focusing conditions.

These two different pieces of evidence - the blurred region and the multiple vanishing points - indicate that the image was traced and not drawn.

Rebuttal by Tyler and Stork

Stork and Tyler accept the anomalous features in the painting - the blurriness and the multiple vanishing points - but fault the analysis by Hockney and Falco. They provide alternative explanations for the features and they suggest that Hockney and Falco's analysis has consequences that make it invalid. Stork and Tyler argue that the picture was sketched by hand.

  1. Explanations that question the blurred region in the carpet
    1. The artist did not worry about details in the carpet because, if he had, he would not have blurred the octagon, which is a prominent feature on the carpet.
    2. The carpet had a distorted weave or the painting's canvas had been stretched.
    3. Blurry regions are not found in other paintings of that time.
  2. Perspective analysis
    Where an area, such as the octagon, has been traced without re-focusing, the image should follow the basic constraints of perspective. Parallel lines should show a single vanishing point and vanishing points, in general, should lie on a horizontal line. Tyler examines the octagon region to show that it is not so.


1.1 The important issue is the blur and the reason for it, and not the location for it. Blurs are not present in the artist's other work.

1.2 The first is unanswerable because the carpet is unavailable. The second is answerable but the painting is inaccessible.

1.3 This is irrelevant. At issue is the blur on this painting.

2. Falco has responded that Tyler is applying the ideas of perspective incorrectly.

This technical argument is hard to adjudicate. According to Falco, two vanishing points means two different focusing conditions meaning that the picture was traced. Tyler assumes that a particular area was traced under a fixed set of focusing conditions. Falco's conclusion does not depend on Tyler's assumption.

Further tests of Falco's analysis

Falco's optical analysis predicts features of the painting with impressive accuracy. The octagon on the carpet is a regular octagon but the image projected onto the canvas is distorted. Falco is able to predict the distortion to an accuracy of +/-2%. The image was refocused twice on the canvas, each time changing the magnification. In both cases, Falco is able to predict the measured changes in magnification to +/-0.2%. On each occasion, the validity of Falco's model is tested quantitatively with experimental numbers.


What features in this painting suggest that it was traced and not drawn?

Given these features, can a case be made that it was drawn?

Falco and Hockney have called this Lotto painting their "Rosetta Stone", the key to understanding how artists used optics. Tyler and Stork have challenged this. On what basis do Falco and Hockney claim this to be a "Rosetta Stone"? Is this a valid claim?

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