7.3 The conceit of light

The Mary May tomb is made from marble, a material that is well known for its luminosity (Bradley 2006), and as such is often associated with 18th-century ideals of classicism (Purdy 2004). White and black marble as well as alabaster are popular materials for early modern tomb effigies (Whinney 1992, 67). The material of marble as used in statuary has much in common with human flesh in its translucent properties. This trend is present in the Baroque and Restoration sculpture of the mid-1600s onwards, and Mary May's tomb does not fail to disappoint our expectation of a creamy, luminous figure covered in soft drapery. In reading the PTMs, the team made use of a setting mentioned above, specular enhancement, in order to enhance the reflectance of pixels. This setting provides views of the surface shapes in a sort of two-and-a-half dimensionality. The specular enhancement view of the statue removes the visual effect of light shining through the fabric of the effigy, which can be distracting when creating images for analysis of surface details. The re-colouring of this setting, distancing the images seen from the see-through properties of marble, must therefore be acknowledged as it may have affected our reading of the statue.


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