Optics at the dawn of the Renaissance

David Hockney, Charles M. Falco

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Recently, one of us (DH) observed that certain drawings and paintings from as early as the Renaissance seemed almost "photographic" in detail. An extensive visual investigation of western art of the past 1000 years resulted in the revolutionary claim that artists even of the prominence of van Eyck and Bellini must have used optical aids. However, art historians insisted there was no supporting evidence for such a remarkable assertion. This paper presents some of the optical evidence we subsequently discovered that convincingly demonstrates optical instruments were in use - by artists, not scientists - nearly 200 years earlier than widely thought possible, and that accounts for the remarkable transformation in the reality of portraits that occurred early in the 15th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number966308
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2003
Event8th International Topical Meeting on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics - Tucson, United States
Duration: Oct 6 2003 → …

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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