Home > Image Theory, Other Blogs > Colin Berry: Stop Calling the Faint Image a Faint Image

Colin Berry: Stop Calling the Faint Image a Faint Image

February 21, 2015

And, as I see it . . . the word distance and the word body are both at issue.
Can we go on saying that no one has figured out how the image was formed
and at the same time objectively refer to cloth-to-body distance?

clip_image001I applaud Colin Berry’s attempt at helping to define the image:

Getting the right words to describe the Shroud image into the media and public domain has acquired a new urgency of late, given the recent claims that attempt to undo decades of research.  I refer to historian Charles Freeman’s claim that the TS is merely an age-degraded painting.  I’ve said quite a lot on that score already elsewhere, as indeed have others, and have little more to add, except to say that Mr. Freeman needs to get up to speed with Shroud science, and disabuse himself of the idea that it’s all about art history. The TS is arguably NOT about art. It’s an artefact, intended for purposes other than mere artistic expression. Works of art do not generally result in the issue of Pilgrims’ Badges (Lirey, France, circa 1357).

However, thanks to the robotic and mindless Google algorithm, Charles’s misguided notions will no doubt survive for a while, at least on the internet.  It’s no longer sufficient in this blogger’s view to continue describing the TS as a "faint image". That is too non-specific and makes it too easy for CF to peddle his antediluvian views (if STURP can be thought of as supplying a flood of new information).  "Faint image" or even faint NEGATIVE image simply does not do the business (CF having closed his eyes completely to the  implications of the tone-reversal implied by the descriptor "negative"). No, we need new updated terminology that makes it clear that the TS is not just any old "faint image", but one with very special, indeed unique properties that sets it apart from other pictorial representations of the human form. While that terminology cannot and must not attempt to impose a new orthodoxy regarding mechanism, actual or conjectural, it is entitled in my view to guide thinking in the right direction, while leaving key details unspecified.

So what is that terminology to be?

One has to be neither  pro- nor anti-authenticity to regard the TS image as an IMPRINT.

Definition of "imprint" (noun): Free Dictionary:



1. a mark or indentation impressed on something.

2. any impression or impressed effect.

And it is life-sized front and back, negative and contains seemingly 3D properties, Colin goes on to remind us.

Colin goes on to examine the definition issue from the point of view of a quote from a paper by Barrie Schwortz, Is the Shroud of Turin a Medieval Photograph?: A critical examination of the theory. That paragraph reads:

The STURP team concluded that there was a correlation between the density (or darkness) of the image on the Shroud and the distance the cloth was from the body at the time the image was formed. The researchers calculated that the image on the Shroud was formed at a cloth-to-body distance of up to approximately 4 centimeters, but beyond that, imaging did not occur. The closer the cloth was to the body, the darker the resulting image in that area, with the darkest parts of the image being formed where there was direct contact between the two. The image became proportionately lighter as the distance increased until it reached the maximum imaging distance. . . .

To which Colin responds:

Left to me I would have described the TS image as probably, indeed almost certainly a CONTACT imprint, such as can be modelled with hot templates. But the view exists, articulated above, and emanating in main from STURP physicist John Jackson PhD, that the TS image is not contact-only, but from modelling studies (at any rate)  appears to allow imaging across modest air gaps that do not exceed approx 4cm.  Personally, I think that latitude in allowing an air gap is a defect of the presumed imaging model, one that assumes a linen cloth spread loosely over a real corpse, and making only partial contact under gravity.  That’s a pro-authenticity scenario.

Forget that! The issue isn’t pro-authenticity. The issue is taking a leap too far making an observation into a theory. Consider what adding a short phrase does.

. . . there was a correlation between the density (or darkness) of the image on the Shroud and the [what might have been] distance the cloth was from the body at the time the image was formed. . . .

Colin’s take is just as correct:

Let’s not prejudge who is right, who is wrong.  Let’s assume that all that’s required is close proximity between a body and/or inanimate template that tolerates air gaps up to 4cm.

So the word distance and the word body are both at issue.  Can we go on saying that no one has figured out how the image was formed and at the same time objectively refer to cloth-to-body distance?

Colin’s caveat is fair:

Caveat: I’ve tried to be inclusive here, allowing for the possibility that  the image to have been produced by a burst of radiation (unspecified, see critique by the estimable Bernard Power ), and able to operate across air gaps. Without attempting to read  the minds of ‘resurrection radiationists’, whether it’s electromagnetic radiation or even wackier subatomic particles – notably neutrons-  that are proposed, might they consider the term "imprint", even modified with "proximity" as a potential poisoned chalice? Well, I’ve given a little thought to that, and followed up with some googling. What do I find?  Those ‘radiationist’ ideas have already filtered through to the mainstream media under the heading "imprints".

Of course, I’ve ignored Colin’s main point. We should stop calling the faint image on the shroud a faint image.  We make it to easy for the likes of Charles Freeman.

We should call it a proximity imprint, he tells us. 

No! Four syllables followed by two is a leap to far.  Remember, we are talking about the problems of a “robotic and mindless Google algorithm.”  

BTW:  I Googled “Faint Image.”  Not one picture of the shroud!  Most images were of people who had fainted.

Do read Colin’s entire posting.

  1. February 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    The feedback I am getting is that the reason why, to Colin’s dismay, I am high on the Google lists , is that I offer a coherent explanation for the Shroud, from creation on a treadle loom, to being painted according to medieval treatises, losing its pigments but leaving behind enough to show a typical early fourteenth century iconography and finally an explanation of the original function of the Shroud before Jeanne de Vergy attempted to make an authentic relic of it. People respond to a coherent narrative although this does not mean that my hypothesis is right in every respect.
    What I suggest is that those who disagree with me construct their own narrative of the creation of the shroud, how the images got onto it, how it survived over two thousand years, and make it convincing and coherent enough as a narrative for a respected journal or newspaper to publish it. Then I am sure people will want to read it and it will move up the Google rankings.
    Meanwhile I look forward to the new terminology to describe the images on the shroud. Fifty Shades of Fade anyone?

    • Nabber
      February 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Sorry, but I find it incredibly illuminating that you should advertise yourself as “high on the Google lists”. It’s sad that you have to aggrandize yourself this way. But at least it lets everyone here know about your true motivation. BTW, “pompous a$$” gets 210,000 hits…

      • February 22, 2015 at 3:04 am

        Nabber, I don’t have to advertise myself- if you read Colin’s blog, he did it for me. I obviously have no control over the Google ratings- as I understand it, it occurs when large numbers of other websites find your contribution helpful and pass it around.

        • Dan
          February 22, 2015 at 8:40 am

          Actually, Google is not quite that smart. If your article had been published in The Onion or cited by Tractor Pull Competition Quarterly it would have had a much higher Google rating. Even so, History Today was a source of good Google ranking. BTW, have you ever found an example of a medieval painted negative image yet? I keep asking. A bowl of fruit will do fine.

        • February 22, 2015 at 9:14 am

          Well you can see from both the Shroud and the shroud of Besancon that those painting the images for the Quem Queritis ceremony deliberately placed the chest wound on the left rather than the conventional ( from Ad 586 if not earlier) right to show that they were creating an imprint of the crucified body. It was clearly the convention to do this and it is a pity that we don’t have more survivals to prove the point. However , all the more reason for treasuring the Shroud as possibly the only survivor of this ceremony.
          In short the artist or the creator of the template these artists may have copied said’: This is meant to represent the marks that a crucified body might have left so how do we do this?.

        • Dan
          February 22, 2015 at 10:11 am

          Maybe I wasn’t clear, Charles. I wanted to know if you have you ever found an example of a medieval painted negative image, not a mirror image. And, of course, I don’t mean a painted copy of a negative image. I mean in the history of art, say, from Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc until today, can you think of a single painted negative image? Figurative painting, of course, but a bowl of fruit will do, or a running beast on the wall of a cave, or a man. Or are you saying it is a pity that no examples exist except for the shroud? If that is so, I’ll offer you a challenge. I’ll accept a proxy; find a living artist today who can paint a negative image of a man or a bowl of fruit. He must paint the man or the fruit, not copy a photographic negative.

        • Charles Freeman
          February 22, 2015 at 10:26 am

          I can’t see what your point is, Dan. It is not as of fourteenth century artists were not capable of wonderful paintings, far more impressive than the Shroud, But they would need a reason to create a negative image and the Quem Queritis ceremony gave them one. The commission would have been to do a painting that showed the marks of a crucified body as if they had been transferred onto the grave cloth. So this is what we have ( as the wound on the left side shows). We would have to think up another context in which a negative was needed and research from there. Perhaps indeed this (and the Besancon Shroud) is the only one- but it would not have been beyond an artist of the day.

          There remain lots of problems. Why is the head of Christ that of a man standing, for instance (this is echoed by depictions from the past which all show that the hair at the back was also of a man standing)? One suggestion I have had is that the inept nature of the join of the head to the body shows that they used a template for the head and painted the body separately but this must be speculative.

          I was doing a presentation last week and comparing the pose of the man on the Shroud with other medieval examples and we were looking at a sculpture from an entombment scene where they had carved the hair falling back as one would expect from a lying figure and it was, of course, nothing like the rigid hair of the head of the Man on the Shroud.

        • Dan
          February 22, 2015 at 11:31 am

          Charles, you say that the Quem Queritis ceremony gave them a reason to do a painting that showed the marks of a crucified body as if they had been transferred onto the grave cloth. So this is what we have, you say, as the wound on the left side shows. Let’s say I accept the motive. Let’s say I accept the method of reversing sides, too. And so they paint a mirror image. But that is not a negative image. In a negative image darker shades are lighter and lighter shades are darker. In dark rooms of old, negative images on the celluloid were left to right reversed, as well, but that is not what made them a negative. You do realize this difference? You do realize too that the shroud image, the one of the cloth, is a negative image?

          Why in the world would an artist, commissioned or not, paint a negative image? A mirror image, I understand. More significantly, how did he do it? I contend it is nearly impossible to paint a negative image. Charles, your theory depends on the idea that the shroud was like so many other paintings. I contend that no such painting has ever been done but would welcome one “black swan” from the whole of art history that proves me wrong.

        • February 22, 2015 at 12:45 pm

          I am waiting for expert guidance from a textile specialist on this but what we appear to have is the shadows of the original images after the pigments have fallen off. This would explain the limited residue of pigments.
          There is some evidence to suggest that this happened in the nineteenth century – a depiction of the exposition of 1868 shows the frontal image decayed from the shoulders downwards and this is just the exposition where they framed the Shroud for the first time which suggests that they were worried about its deterioration.

          By this time the pigments would have been In for place for five hundred years and so the shadows on the cloth underneath would vary according to the thickness of the original paint. So dark colours might leave a lighter shadow underneath and light colours a darker one and this may explain the apparent negative features, which go alongside the left hand wound. Five hundred years is a long time.

          As I say the only people who can answer this one are people who work with textile conservation especially those who deal with painted linens. I do not know of any such who are contributing to this site so the possibilities of finding a solution here are very limited.

          In so far as the Shroud is seen as a mystery, it is important to think imaginatively about the possible ways it which it was woven and the images created. One can only put forward hypotheses that are then tested against the knowledge of specialists. Some will be accepted, some shown to be wrong. I stick to my view that until the Vatican allows further testing ,it will be looking for similar features on other artefacts that will help solve the issues, just as the date of the horses of St.Mark’s was solved when other datable examples of gilded bronzes were analysed and they could be shown to be matches.

        • Nabber
          February 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

          Charles , you are pointing out about yourself here on this blog as being “high on the Google lists”. You are obviously crowing about your ability to attract attention. We have a name for that in this modern age, and the first word is “attention _____”…..

  2. Thibault HEIMBURGER
    February 21, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I agree with Colin, except for point 3: “3. The 3D-properties of the TS negative image which contrary to early reports is not unique to the TS, but in fact are easily modeled with contact-only imprints, e.g. model scorches from a heated template as this blogger and others has demonstrated, e.g. with a brass crucifix”.

    At least, a 2D painting of the shroud also show so-called 3D properties using JImage, even better than the TS.
    There is a problem with JImage.

    More later…

    • February 21, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      At least, a 2D painting of the shroud also show so-called 3D properties using JImage, even better than the TS.
      There is a problem with JImage.

      I suppose that only apparently,Thibault.

      Can you post here your images (via Imgur http://imgur.com/ or similar service), please?

      • Thibault HEIMBURGER
        February 23, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        Yes OK, only apparently.

        But things are very complex.
        I have to think about it.

        I will not post my images but I’ll try to write something about this problem as soon as possible.

        As I wrote, you can ask Dan my private email address.
        I would be glad to discuss with you.

    • anoxie
      February 22, 2015 at 2:22 am

      “that terminology cannot and must not attempt to impose a new orthodoxy regarding mechanism”

      Serioulsy?!? Do we have the same free dictionnary?

      To impress :
      to produce (an imprint, etc) by pressure in or on (something)

      An imprint means pressure, contact, no distant mechanism unless you detail the process, that’s already biased.

      guess who has been trying to impose his mechanism… let’s be specific and talk about a thermal scorch, anyone could make his own mind directly.

      And yes, yes, yes there is a pb with JImage, there is a pb with the misuse of JImage, that’s been said, written, re-said, re-written.

      At least it does not take a long time to catch up.

  3. Carlos
    February 22, 2015 at 6:25 am


    Estoy de acuerdo con su interpretación de las densidades de la imagen TS como IMPRONTAS en su más amplio sentido, señal, marca o huella, y que pueden incluir el mecanismo de una “radiación” desconocida.

    Son 2 los factores principales que se combinan para producir la IMPRONTA:

    1.- DISTANCIA entre cada “zona” del cuerpo humano real (soy autenticista) y la Sábana.

    2.- DENSIDAD de la masa corporal “radiante” en cada zona del cuerpo humano real.

    Generalizando, las zonas corporales más DENSAS corresponden a las estructuras del esqueleto óseo más cercanas a la Sábana y a las formadas por el pelo (cabello y barba) y las zonas corporales menos DENSAS corresponden a la parte superior de la cavidad torácica hiperextendida y llena de aire por el pneumotorax secundario a la perforación pleural producto de la herida del costado y en el abdomen a los órganos “huecos” llenos de aire (todo el “marco cólico” o sea colon ascencente, transverso y descendente) y al hipogastrio.


    • February 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Sorry Carlos, but I don’t recognize any of that as science. Pure conjecture might be a more accurate description. But even if were 10% science, I’m no longer willing to discuss the details here, for reasons stated earlier. I’m now operating entirely from my sciencebuzz site (comments always welcome from the serious-minded) where there is greater focus, fewer needless distractions.

  4. Hugh Farey
    February 22, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Hi Dan! Enter the Black Swan!
    Try Googling “Brian Lai.”

  5. Kelly Kearse
    February 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    So, there’s a medieval artist, tentatively dubbed Nairb Ial, who paints a negative image, negative to mimic transfer of an body image to a cloth. Which originally has a loin cloth & a crown of thorns, that has entirely flaked off, but the main body image remains, which has also flaked off, but not to the same extent. Anticipating the future disappearance of the loin cloth, Nairb includes scourge markings on the upper parts of the thighs (ventral & dorsal sides) as well as the buttocks (dorsal side). Nairb was a true visionary, not only having the foresight to include undercover scourge markings, but potentially anticipating the advent of photography as well, as he knew these, as well as other details would be much enhanced in the negative of the negative image, as it were. Or perhaps these undercover scourge markings were added at a later time by a great great grandson, Nairb the 3rd, when the last trace of the loin cloth flaked off.

    As a footnote, the elder Nairb is also believed to have used a type of protein-less gesso technique in his creation, possibly garnered from rabbits that were raised on a very, very specialized diet. Time for some serious BAS-relief on this one, as in British Art Society relief.

  6. Hugh Farey
    February 22, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Well quite. See my comment on the next post along. But I was asked for a negative painter, and I found one!

  7. Kelly Kearse
    February 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm


    Yes, of course-that kid is pretty amazing

  8. Louis
    February 22, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    There is much more in the Shroud image than meets the naked eye, the image is indeed very complex. Many scientists have admitted that. This will be demonstrated in a Shroud article that will be available online in a few days time.

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