Shadow Casting in the Projection of Baroque Ceiling Paintings

Shadow Casting in the Projection
of Baroque Ceiling Paintings

(Workshop, Brno, October 8, 2020)

by: Michaela Šeferisová Loudová and Martin Mádl
photos: Martin Mádl and Tadeáš Kadlec

On October 8, the Seminar of Art History, Masaryk University in Brno, and the Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with the restorer Michaela Rychlá Navrátilová and the architect Daniela Vlková, and with the students of art history of the Masaryk and the Charles Universities have organized a joint workshop in Brno.

The workshop was focused on the experimental perspective projection of the painted architectural elements through shadow casting. The experiment took place in the New Town Hall (formerly the Provincial House) in Brno, wich is a complex of Baroque buildings on Dominican Square, originally a Dominican monastery. It has served as the seat of municipal administration since 1935 (until then, the Old Town Hall was used for this purpose). From the second half of the 13th century, the building was used for court hearings and meetings of the Moravian estates. In 1582–1585 it was extended to include a Renaissance part (Assembly Hall, Knight’s Hall, and others). The Provincial House, as the building was called at the time, was largely expanded at the end of the 17th century and early 18th century. The last major modification was the construction of a new wing in 1772 and 1776, which resulted in the second courtyard.

New Town Hall, Brno (formerly the Provincial House)

Main Hall, New Town Hall (formerly the Provincial House), Brno (photo by Moritz Trapp, 1860?)
Main Hall, New Town Hall (formerly the Provincial House), Brno (photo by Moritz Trapp, 1860?)

A damaged fresco painting with remarkable quadrattura by Franz Gregorius Ignaz Eckstein (1689?-1741?)  from ca. 1729 has been discovered recently in the main hall of the building. A method of shadow casting, as described by Abraham Bosse in his treatise Moyen universel de pratiquer la perspective sur les tableaux ou surface irregulieres, Paris 1653 and in other early modern sources, has been used during the workshop.

Abraham Bosse, Moyen universel de pratiquer la perspective sur les tableaux ou surface irregulieres, Paris 1653

 

The experiment has proved that the painter Eckstein most probably was well acquainted with the method and used it also in his project of the eccentric fictive colonnade, which frames the scene.

A visit of the College of Noble Ladies (Damenstift) and the presentation of the restored paintings in the chapel by Josef Stern (1716-1775) from 1756 was a part of the program of the workshop in Brno.

College of Noble Ladies (Damenstift), Brno

Chapel of Virgin Mary, College of Noble Ladies (Damenstift), Brno
Josef Stern, Presentation of Virgin Mary, chapel of Virgin Mary, College of Noble Ladies (Damenstift), Brno, 1756


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