Friday, 30 October 2015
The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 42.
If the figures on the Holy Shroud are not the work of man, they must be what they seem to be ; that is to say—impressions. A body—we do not yet say a corpse—has really been laid on this cloth in the manner indicated by the figures. This is a great step gained. All our efforts so far have been to dispel misunderstanding. Now we approach the problem itself.
The Holy Shroud, then, has retained the print of a human body. Does this mean that all idea of fraud is now at an end. By no means. It is possible to assert that the forger at Lirey, though not a painter, had some common sense. In his efforts to represent a cloth as the Shroud of Christ he may very well have reasoned as follows :
" Let us cover a human body with some colouring matter and envelope it in a large sheet ; we shall obtain the imprint of the body, after which it will be easy to persuade people that the body was that of Christ/'
We will now inquire how the forger would set to work, and what results he would be likely to obtain. This investigation should prove that it was beyond his power to make the impressions visible on the actual Shroud. But before ourselves undertaking this new investigation we will put forward the reflections made by M. Chevalier on this point in a pamphlet which appeared in 1902.
We were somewhat surprised to read on page 13 in this work by M. Chevalier the following sentence : " Nevertheless it is not enough to eliminate the possibility of a negative being painted—it must be established how the negative became fixed on the sheet."
Surely it is for the supporters, not the opponents, of the fraud hypothesis to establish how the work was done. We shall feel we have gained a point if we are able to refute all the theories which attribute the work to a forger.
To find satisfaction in the lines quoted above we should have to admit that M. Chevalier had a whole arsenal of suppositions at his disposal. He might say, " Although these figures are not the work of a painter, they may be the result of some mechanical process/'
But M. Chevalier does not suggest any new explanation. On the contrary, on page 39 we find him warmly criticizing the hypothesis of mechanical process brought forward by Father Sanna Solaro. This writer believes in the authenticity of the Shroud, but he also believes that the impressions thereon are the result of direct contact.
M. Chevalier does not accept this theory, and we quote his brief and energetic refutation :
" The author supposes that the bleeding body would have left a print at all points where it was in contact with the cloth (p. 122 of P. Solaro). There are many ways of proving the impossibility of this explanation. I am astonished that a sometime professor of physical science can suggest the possibility of such a phenomenon ; an impression is one thing—a portrait, even a negative portrait, quite another. He had only to try the experiment on a willing subject/'
" This has been done by an Italian doctor, Dr. P. Caviglia. Le P. S. S. (le Pere Solaro) may see the results in the journal Presente et Avenire (Roma, re ann., p. 139). They are contemptible ; yet in this way they claim to have demonstrated the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin ! The final argument is worthy of those which preceded it."
P. Sanno Solaro's adversary has not spared him.
But in what a position has M. Chevalier placed himself ? On page 13 he admits that we may put aside all idea of fraud by a painter. On page 39 he disposes of the idea of a fraudulent manipulator. We are obliged to return to our first theory. Surely M. Chevalier must hold in reserve, in order to attribute it to the forger, some extraordinary method which owes nothing to the skill of artists and which can make a negative by other means than contact. He certainly must mean to tell us that the man in 1353 already knew the secrets of photography.
M. Chevalier declares himself not convinced when we demonstrate that the figures on the Shroud are not paintings, yet he refuses to admit that they are prints by contact.
It remains for him to suggest new arguments.
In a scientific work we have not the right to put aside the possibility of impression by contact as lightly as M. Chevalier does.
If the prints obtained by Dr. Caviglia are as formless as M. Chevalier represents, it may be because the subject was covered with coloured grease and not with powder.
All greasy substances, all aromatic mixtures, would only produce blotches of about the same tint. The colouring substance might be of irregular thickness, and might get blotted ; but it would not shade off in the way necessary to produce a real modelling.
But there is no necessity to cover the subject with grease ; red chalk would give a less coarse result. A ferruginous earth, such as burnt Sienna or red ochre, reduced to impalpable powder, will adhere fairly well to a cloth such as we have in question. To make this adherence reliable—that is to say, to fix the drawing—it will be sufficient to spray the cloth with a liquid albumen, or more simply to drench it with very liquid gum. What amount of sensitiveness would there be in such a method of getting an impression ? Hardly any, you may say ; but this is not quite the case.
We may reason thus. The portions of the body which touch the cloth would stain it in a uniform manner, and those which did not touch the cloth would make no mark. Consequently the impression would not be modelled. This is not all. To reproduce the rounded portions it would be necessary to touch them. Therefore, when the print was completed and the cloth which had been on the receding portions was laid out flat, the figure would be considerably enlarged.
This is why we cannot hope to obtain by simple contact good reproductions of a delicate object, such as the human face. It is possible, however, for a careful operator to place the linen in such a way as to obtain perfect shaded modelling, and it should not be impossible to go further and obtain satisfactory results.
In this way the sculptor and modellist, M. le Dr. P. Recher, so well known for his works in artistic anatomy, wished to show me the tracings he had obtained by making patients suffering from locomotor attaxi walk on long slips of paper after smearing their feet with red chalk. The patient, walking with his ordinary tread, himself diagnoses his illness.
For Dr. Recher's purpose it matters very little whether the prints of the feet are well modelled or not, but as a matter of fact these impressions are really good.
The foot in its different parts presses very unequally on the paper. There is every shade of difference between the energetic pressure made by the heel and the ball of the foot and the delicate contact of the instep.
The outer side of the sole of the foot presses almost as strongly as the heel; but working inward from this outer edge a point is soon reached at which all contact is lost and the impression ceases.
The impression is not lost quite as soon as might be imagined, as the instep bends somewhat under the weight of the body and the toes and heels sink in a remarkable manner. Also the paper which is compressed in the places where the pressure is greatest rises itself under the arch of the instep.