Every Picture Tells A Story

Just not the whole story. These two photos of the same carved ornament from a high chest of drawers made in Philadelphia c. 1765, were both made by professional photographers more than a decade apart. In the first image the photographer laid the cartouche flat on its back surface, placing the film plane parallel with the background. This is approximately the view we have of the ornament when we stand directly in front of the chest and look up at it.


In the second image the photographer installed the ornament on a table top using the same metal bracket used to attach it to the chest. The film plane was placed perpendicular to the bottom of the ornament. This is a view we are not likely to have of the ornament. The closest we would come to this perspective would be from across a long room.

Ornament 2

I wonder if you can tell from either image, or even a combination of the two, that the main body of the ornament is two inches thick and the frond at the top is carved from a two inch thick blank glued to the main body. The depth of the ornament from the back surface at the bottom to the front surface of the frond at the top is four inches. Without personally examining the ornament or possessing a great number of images from all perspectives, it is very difficult to understand the structure of any object that exists in three dimensions even when they are meant to be seen, for the most part frontally, this style of furniture ornament having roughly carved, unfinished back surfaces.

Could you carve a copy of an ornament based on a few frontal images and have it appear, in a photographic image, similar to the original? Probably, in the same way  a faithful drawing of a photograph of an ornament could be created. But could you carve a copy from one or two photographs, place it next to the original and have any significant correspondence between the two? That, in my experience, is unachievable. And recreating the subtle modeling of the central cabochon from a photograph? As we say where I come from, fuggeddabodit.

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