Details of Lepère’s woodcut, After the Statue by A. Rodin
Detail of de Roton’s hyalograph, Mercury (after François Rude)
Valentine Green (1739–1813)
Frederica, Duchess of
After Sir Joshua Reynolds
Mezzotint on laid paper
63.4 x 38.8 cm
|Digitally altered tones in Green’s Frederica, Duchess of |
Chiaroscuro lighting can also play an even more pivotal role in images based on a narrative. For example, Paul Delaroche’s famous—perhaps even iconic—The execution of Lady Jane Grey translated into the print, Jane Gray, by Paul Mercury [Mercuri] (shown below) is instantly understandable because of the lighting arrangement employed. Certainly the arrangement of the figures in the scene and their body language visually articulate the grisly fate in store for Lady Grey, but, as is demonstrated in the digital alterations to Green’s print above, the eye needs to be guided when looking for meaning.
The principle of guiding the eye across an image is all about establishing a hierarchical order (i.e. a “pecking order”) in terms of which of the portrayed features should be looked at first, second and so forth. Clearly, Lady Grey is the main protagonist in this drama and, consequently, she is portrayed in so much light that she literally glows. Interestingly, in Paul Delaroche’s painting, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Execution_of_Lady_Jane_Grey), the lighting is less of a glowing phenomenon and more of a shaft of light illuminating her. With regard to the other figures in the image, each is portrayed with progressively diminishing levels of illumination as shown in the details below. Interestingly, there is a formula for adjusting the degree of illumination away from a point source of light and this is explained in the earlier post Inverse-Square law.
Details of Mercury’s Jane Gray