|Displaying the Shroud in Turin, 1613. Engraving by Antonio Tempesta. AKG Images|
We argue thus to prove that the figures are not formed by a chemical inversion of colours.
The Holy Shroud is not a painting which has formed a negative by the action of sulphur in the light tints. Such a picture would be one on which the light tints had gone very black. Whatever might have been their original tones, such colours take on the livid tint which sulphur of lead communicates to the substances with which it is mixed.
The entire figures on the Holy Shroud are formed in reddish-brown tints. Had they been painted they would have faded, not become darker.
We are fully justified in this assertion by the descriptions given in past ages, and by careful examination of the copies of the Holy Shroud; we can also rely on the testimony of several distinguished inhabitants of Chambery, who were able in 1898 to make a leisurely examination of the Holy Shroud.
We know that in 1898 the Holy Shroud was visible for eight days, from May 25 to June 2. M. de Buffet, a learned inhabitant of Chambery, gave us a circumstantial description of the Shroud and the impressions on it. So did Dom Lafond, a learned Benedictine monk, and others, whom we need not mention. The figures, seen close, look like a series of brownish stains, which get fainter at the edges and merge gradually into the light background of the cloth, but seen from further off stand out clearly. Dom Lafond assured us that at a distance of twenty-five yards, he saw them better even than on the photograph. In the sacristy adjoining the Sainte Chapelle at Turin there is a water-colour copy, life size, done in 1898. To have reproduced all the details would have involved much work, but the general effect is faithful.
M. Manus and M. Pia, who examined bits of the linen on which we tried our chemical experiments described in our final chapter (producing pictures by the action of ammoniacal vapour on linen impregnated with oil and aloes), were struck with the wonderful resemblance between my pictures so obtained and the impressions on the Holy Shroud.
Just lately we have tried another experiment. Allowing water to soak into parts of our linen impressions, we have thus obtained dark markings identical with those on the Shroud caused by the water used to extinguish the fire of 1532.
Recent critics cite testimony to prove that the impressions in the Middle Ages were much more strongly marked then than they are now, but there is no means of coming to a conclusion on this point. Certainly photography reveals details with extraordinary minuteness which have been entirely lacking in even the most faithful copies of the Middle Ages, and we think ourselves justified in saying that the Shroud has not essentially changed since it has been known historically.
Our most obstinate opponents bring forward quite different arguments to the two we have cited ; they admit freely that the figures are not paintings changed into negatives — in fact I think that all careful observers must see at a glance that the Shroud could not have been painted by an artist.
All sorts of marks are distinguished in the photographs, which tend to prove that the Holy Shroud retains the impression of a body.
We have already alluded briefly to these marks in the first chapter, we will now return to them in the detail to which the subject is entitled. These markings are particularly important from the moment that the observer renounces the hypothesis that the figures have been fraudulently obtained by painting a direct negative, and begins to think that the negatives are the result of chemical action.
In order to paint this negative directly on the Holy Shroud the ingenious artist must have known the work required of him, and must have been able to imitate the conditions of a natural impression. But in the hypothesis which we are now discussing the author of these impressions could only have been a simple painter, and could only have executed an ordinary portrait on the cloth. We can no longer therefore consider the marks as the perverted ingenuity of a forger, for, artistically speaking, they could have no meaning.
Thus, as we analyze the hypothesis on which our opponents rely, in attributing the execution of the pictures on the Holy Shroud to some artist of the Middle Ages, we perceive that such arguments are untenable.
It would have been easier to have stated these arguments in a few lines and to have left our readers to examine for themselves the traces visible on the Shroud at Turin. Any unprejudiced observer must arrive at the same conclusion as ourselves.
But objections have been made ; and some persons, who have not even seen the photographs, or who have glanced carelessly at the plates, profess themselves convinced by the criticisms of MM. Chopin, Lajoie, or de Mely. Thus M. de Mely has just published a pamphlet entitled Le Saint Suaire de Turin est-il Authentique (Pussielgue), which contains many observations which are quite inexact, and which we can easily refute.
The Holy Shroud is in itself a very remarkable—we may even say unique—object, if we consider the exceptional circumstances which must have produced the impressions, even without reference to their true signification. It is well therefore to say clearly what they are not. This negative statement will prepare the way for the positive study which we now propose to undertake. We will once more mark the limit of what we consider proved by the foregoing arguments. Since the impression is neither a painting executed in negative, nor an ordinary painting transformed by chemical action, then it must be recognized that the figures on the Holy Shroud are in no sense the work of man.