Yves Delage and the Shroud

A Shroud conference in Bari

The magazine l'Histoire and the Shroud

The photomicrographs of Mark Evans

December 12, 2014

 From Gallica. Click image for the original Yves Delage's paper.


The image of the Shroud of Turin has a peculiar property: it can be interpreted as a 3D image. No medieval artistic image is known to have such a property. This 3D property has been mentioned by many writers and has been demonstrated in many ways: by transformation to anaglyph images, by using the VP-8 Image Analyzer, by computerized heat maps and 3D relief mappings, by a transformation to real 3D statues, or by descriptions of the property itself.

It has often been written that the 3D property of the Shroud image was discovered in 1976 when a photograph of the Shroud was placed in a VP-8 Image Analyzer. That statement is incorrect because the 3D property was described in details much ealier, in 1902, soon after Secondo Pia took the first photograph of the Shroud in 1898. Instead, the VP-8 was the first electronic device to interpret the variations of shades, of the Shroud image, as the 3D relief of a real human body. This demonstration was done by Drs. John Jackson and Eric Jumper.

In any case, the 3D property can be perceived with the naked eye when looking at a photographic negative of the Shroud image, in particular for the face, which has a smooth variation of the intensity of the color that the human eye perceives as a real 3D relief of the face.

In fact, the 3D property of the Shroud image was described in details for the first time by Prof. Yves Delage in April of 1902, during a presentation at the Académie des Sciences, Paris, France. His analysis was only based on a visual observation of the Shroud photographs taken by Secondo Pia. The presentation was actually not published in the Comptes Rendues de l'Académie des Sciences due to the controversy of the Shroud of Turin. (The Comptes Rendues de l'Académie des Sciences are available online from the Persée web site. In April of 1902, a compte rendue is given for a presentation of Yves Delage about a process that could create images similar to the Shroud. But no reference to the Shroud of Turin is given in that compte rendue.)

 From Gallica. Click image for the original Yves Delage's paper.

To correct this lack of reference, Prof. Delage published the missing presentation done at the Académie des Sciences in the Revue Scientifique, no 22, in May 1902 as a letter to Charles Richet, director of the periodical. An excellent English summary of this letter of Prof. Delage was written, in 1934, by Arthur Stapylton Barnes in his book Holy Shroud of Turin. He also translated in English the most pertinent part of that letter about the 3D relief we can see from the Shroud image, which I reproduce in the following paragraph

An attentive examination of the images on the Shroud allows one to recognize the law of their formation. It is this: The image is a projection, almost orthogonal, a little diffuse, and the intensity of the colour at each point varies inversely with the distance from that point to the corresponding point of the body. The intensity decreases very rapidly as the distance increases, and vanishes when some few centimeters have been reached.

 Prof. Yves Delage, 1902. The original French text is shown at the end of this post.

It is important to note that Prof. Yves Delage had access to the recent first photographs of the Shroud taken by Secondo Pia during the exposition of 1898. In particular the negative photograph of the Shroud from which we can more easily perceive the 3D interpretation described by Prof. Delage. His description, in 1902, leaves no doubt that he realized that the Shroud image can be interpreted as containing 3D information corresponding to a real human body. This was much before any electronic devices was used to emphasize the 3D property.

The important point is that this 3D interpretation can be easily seen with the naked eye without using any complex electronic device. This becomes possible by looking at the negative image of the Shroud. But I think it is important to note that the Shroud image is not a true photographic negative.

It is often stated that the Shroud image is such a negative, but in fact it is first and foremost what Yves Delage described in 1902: an encoding of the 3D relief of a human body, as seen on the Shroud, based on the intensity of the color. It is true that such an image appears similar to a photographic negative, but it is not because a photographic negative inverses the light colors to the dark colors, and vice versa, which is not what we see on the Shroud, otherwise we would need to interpret the real color of the beard and hair of the man of the Shroud as white. On the other hand, the interpretation of the intensity of the color as representing the distance between the body and the cloth makes it realistic.

Excerpt of the original version of the letter of Prof. Yves Delage to Charles Richet, published in Revue Scientifique, no 22, in May of 1902.

A transcription follows:

Un examen attentif de l'image du linceul permet de reconnaître la loi de sa formation. La voici : l'image est une projection à peu près orthogonale, un peu diffuse, et l'intensité de la teinte en chaque point varie en sens inverse de la distance de ce point au point du cadavre correspondant ; cette intensité décroît très rapidement à mesure que la distance augmente et devient nulle quand celle-ci atteint quelques centimètres.

More information about the controversy of the presentation of Yves Delage can be read, in French, from the web pages of Dominique Autié.

August 11, 2014

The final program of the two-day Shroud conference (4-5 Sept) in Bari (Italy) is out.

Many interesting titles appear in that program. Hopefully, the paper themselves will be available soon on the web site of the conference.

March 3, 2014

The French magazine "L'Histoire" (History) has a large readership in France. In February 2012, this magazine published a 28-page dossier (report) titled "Le Suaire de Turin, la vraie histoire d'un faux" (The Shroud of Turin, the true history of a fake) composed of eight articles and one interview with Andrea Nicolotti. The title definitely sets the tone (and the conclusion): the reader is expecting some facts supporting that the Shroud of Turin is a fake. But the magazine presents few reliable information towards that goal and a totally unsubstantiated claim made by Jean Wirth, professor and medieval art historian at the University of Geneva. More details about that claim below.

The first 12 pages of that report includes a transcription of an interview with Andrea Nicolotti, historian at the University of Turin (Andrea Nicolotti's interview in French (full article with paid access)) and various details about the history of the Shroud alongside photographs of a Medallion of Lirey (see Medallions of Lirey in English (this web site)), Ulysse Chevalier, Secondo Pia, and more. The major shortcoming of the report, which includes the details reported by Nicolotti, is the omission of major unique physical facts of the image of the Shroud, such as its superficiality and 3D quality. These details are essential to understand what is really the Shroud of Turin. Are these omissions due to the fact that they would support the authenticity of the Shroud and putting doubts into the claim that it is a fake? It is true that the specialty of Nicolotti is history, not physics, although explaining such qualities does not require deep knowledge of physics and they simply cannot be ignored. Instead, we are given details on the very controversial putative "writings" on the Shroud. Such a subject should be left aside because it is complex, speculative, and is not readily accepted by many researchers. Naturally, some other major physical fact, such as the 1988 radio carbon dating is mentioned. This fact is in favor of the Shroud being a fake, and it is the only serious one.

Then comes a two-page presentation by Jean Wirth, medieval art historian and professor at the University of Geneva. The author, Jean Wirth, states that the Shroud is "Une peinture en très piteux état" (A painting in a very poor condition)! Less than ten sentences appear on these two pages because a large, and damaged, photograph of the Shroud is displayed on them. That photograph is attributed to Secondo Pia (1898) kept at the museum Nicephore Niepce at Châlon-sur-Saône (a photography museum). That photograph appears damaged with uneven colors and a major discoloration at the front feet. Was the selection of that damaged photograph an attempt to support the claim that the Shroud is a painting in a very poor condition? Naturally, since 1898, we have much better photographs like the one taken in 2002 by Durante (see it on the Shroud Scope).

Going back to the main claim by Wirth, namely that the Shroud is "A painting in a very poor condition": this statement needs some support, but we are not given any physical presentation nor any explanation on how it would have reached this state. Not a single other example from the whole history of medieval painting could be given! It is as if the Shroud had been painted with magic paint. In the subtitle of the article, it is claimed that professor Wirth did an investigation and found surprising conclusions. But no specific references to that investigation to support this claim is given. Has professor Wirth ever looked at some photomicrographs of the image of the Shroud of Turin? Such a claim must be based on some analysis of the physical characteristics of the image of the Shroud, otherwise it is very speculative. No such analysis is given. In fact, it can readily be seen from the photomicrographs, and the high definition images of the Shroud, that such a statement defies common sense: a degraded painting would have left a large number of microscopic paint particles all over the Shroud. We do not see such particles. In fact, this claim of a degraded painting contradicts a simple observation: the bloodstains should also have degraded as much as the image itself. This is not the case: microscopically, the bloodstains appear very different when compared to the image. The only way that such an hypothesis could be taken seriously would be to paint on a cloth, beats it whichever way imaginable, and show that the result resembled the Shroud. Nobody has ever shown such a result because common sense tells us that millions of microscopic paint particles would be left in the crevices of the linen cloth. These particles are not seen on the Shroud of Turin.

Jean Wirth also states: "L'absence de distorsion de la silhouette exclut qu'il puisse s'agir de l'empreinte d'un objet tridimensionnel" ("The absence of distortions from the Shroud image exclude the possibility that it is an imprint of a tridimensional object."). Really! Just like that, by one statement, professor Wirth concludes that the image must have distortions if it were coming from a tridimensional object. I doubt that professor Wirth even tried to search for papers that sudied this question. For example, the following paper The Turin Shroud was not flattened before the images formed and no major image distortions necessarily occur from a real body shows that major distortions does not occur. In summary, this paper points out that no major distortions occur even when coming from a tridimensional corpse because its sides are not shown on the Shroud and the cloth was not tightly covering the body. This is a major elementary error on the part of professor Wirth.

My main conclusion: professor Wirth did not study or ignored all the proper physical characteristics of the Shroud, made several erroneous statements, and an entirely speculative claim without any supporting arguments.

This speculative claim is followed by another two-page article on the ancient copies of the Shroud. The unknown author of these two pages did not point out a simple fact: no ancient copies was ever close in its physical details to the Shroud of Turin. This would have shown that no medieval artist, and no non-medieval one, has ever been known to be able to reproduce the unique physical characteristics of the Shroud of Turin. Moreover, there is no known historical record of a named artist claiming to have produced the Shroud of Turin and no serious art historian has ever proposed any artist. The only known historical record relating the Shroud to a purported artist comes from Pierre D'Arcis, the bishop of Troyes (a city not far from Lirey) in 1389, claiming in a letter to the Antipope Clement VII, that 32 years before, his predecessor Henri de Poitiers, had discovered the artist who had confessed painting the Shroud. The artist is not named, there is no historical record that Henri de Poitiers made such a claim, and this is most likely untrue because the Shroud is not a painting.

The report ends with three articles: the resemblance of the Shroud with Byzantine epitaphios, the numerous false relics in medieval time, and a two-page article by Yann Potin touching on the Veronica.

The resemblance of the Shroud with Byzantine epitaphios is a double-edge sword argument: we can argue that the Shroud is based on these epitaphios or the other way around, that is, the Shroud inspired the Byzantine artists to produce the epitaphios. Indeed, from many other sources we know that the Shroud was likely in the hands of the Byzantine empire over many centuries which would have inspired many Byzantine artists. Moreover, all these epitaphios are obviously artistic rendering (man made) but the image on the Shroud does not appear so. But it appears less likely that a medieval (14th century) French artist would have used Byzantine artistic style than Byzantine artists would have based their style on the Shroud; in other words, the theory that the Shroud was owned by the Byzantine empire, prior to 1204, appears more likely.

January 20, 2014

In 1978, the scientific investigation of the Shroud by STURP (Shroud of TUrin Research Project) included the taking of more than 46 photomicrographs by Mark Evans; and Barrie Schwortz helped record their locations on the Shroud. Mark Evans has made 32 of these photomicrographs available to Barrie Schwortz, STERA Inc.

These photomicrographs are very important to better understand the uniqueness of the image on the Shroud, more specifically, the superficiality of the image and the lack of any obvious paint.

Below is a sample of four of these 32 photomicrographs:

Eye (ME-02, 32x). On Shroud Scope Eye (ME-20, 32x). On Shroud Scope
Nose (ME-14, 32x). On Shroud Scope Nose (ME-29, 64x). On Shroud Scope

With the permission of Barrie Schwortz, I present these 32 photomicrographs at 25% of their original resolution on the following web page. That web page directly presents thumb size reproduction of the photomicrographs, but clicking on any of them will open up a new web page with a larger version.

The 32 photomicrographs are also accessible via the Shroud Scope with a new overlay. Each small green rectangle on the Shroud Scope is a location where a photomicrograph was taken. Notice that more photomicrographs are available from the dorsal image than the ventral image. The zoom-in and zoom-out of the Shroud Scope may help you locate all green rectangles.