Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beguiling of Merlin

Edward Coley Burne-Jones (British, 1833-1898)
Beguiling of Merlin, 1872-7
Oil on canvas 186-111 cm.
National Museums Liverpool - Lady Lever Gallery

It's normal to find different versions of art images in the web due to a multitude of copying, potentially bad photography and scanning. I tend to trust that the institution that owns a work will have the better quality image, or should have the better quality as well as most true to life (meaning color and tone) that you'll find. I've included 2 versions of the same painting here, but the quirky thing is, they were both found on the National Museums Liverpool's (who owns the painting) website.

I'm inclined to believe that the image on the left is the more true, but I still find the discrepancy very odd. Of course, finding the best image on the museum website is not always true, see wikipedia's version.

As for the image, Edward Burne-Jones was greatly influenced by the early Pre-Raphaelites such as Dante Gabriel Rosetti but evolved into his own artist. While using well-known stories as subject matter the focus of Burne-Jones' painting was beauty and sensuality.


johnh said...

This is very problematical and disturbing. I don't believe there are any standards that control scanned interpretations for the web. Indeed, there are probably no standards for reproduced interpretations in print. As a matter of fact, due to varying materials and museum keeping qualities, no real way of knowing what an individual art work looked like when it was created! It behooves the student of art to be as knowledgeable as possible about modern scanning and reproduction methods to understand what reproductions are obviously wrong. I think there should be an international committee to study this matter and come out with standards. Museums and other websites involved with art could hold a certification that they can post which will let the viewer know whether the images are up to these standards. The same problems have existed for years with audio reproductions.

A.L. said...

I completely agree, one more thing we need to teach regarding literal visual literacy. I'll always remember the lecture I went to at MoMA when the art historian, using a digital image on the screen was pointing at an area referring to it as green (though it was gray) and said, well pretend it is green, this is an awful reproduction, go upstairs and see the real thing.