Art Word: Camera Obscura

We have a very special Art Word for you today! Probably, you’ve noticed the incredible accuracy and almost photographic naturalism of the paintings of the late Renaissance and Baroque era? Some specialists explain it with the invention of Camera Obscura – is an optical device that led to photography and the photographic camera. It consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside, where it is reproduced, inverted (thus upside-down), but with color and perspective preserved.

Louis Daguerre presented his invention for capturing image, based on the principles of camera obscura, however it was as early as in the 5th century BC as the Chinese philosopher Mozi had described the idea of getting image projected on the wall of a dark room. Aristotle had also mentioned  camera obscura in his Problemata treaties around 350 B.C.

The first accurate and complete description of the construction was made in one of Leonardo da Vinci’s unpublished texts. At least Venturi made references to Leonardo’s notes.

The device became extremely popular among painters by the 17th century. Even Vermeer is believed to have used it!
But it’s not only artists who applied it – camera obscura was very handy for astronomic observation of the Sun’s surface.

Camera obscura was gradually improved and turned into its smaller, table version with adjustable focal line.


camera obscura 2

camera obscura 1

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