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  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  
The Holy Scriptures, Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 1 - 4, King James Bible

The forms of animals in movement are discovered on the walls of caves throughout the world. One of the world's most noted caves for this is the Grotte de Lascaux in France.
Early Cave Painting
Early Cave Art Of Four Horses In A Race From The Chauvet Cave

Motion has often been depicted in early cave art. When the subject (mostly animals) has been that which can provide movement, we often see it in that state. These two examples show us the stationary bull or ox (above) , and what appear to be four horses (left) perhaps in a race.

The ox, which provides strength, food and clothing, is motionless. However the horse, as a provider of transportation, power and agility, is portrayed running.

This early cave art (left) of four horses neck and neck in a race, was discovered in the Chauvet Caves of France.




The 'Running' Eight-Legged Boar Of Altamira

Not only was the portrayal of motion the purpose for this rock painting of an eight-legged boar, but it may also have been a very early attempt by the artist to say that he doesn't understand why he is seeing more legs than the animal has. Discovered at Altamira Spain, the boar is clearly running in a blur with the artist 'seeing' more legs than there are. There is even a suggestion of two blurred heads as he thunders across the plain.

Persistence of vision and the blurring effect of after-images will not be understood for several millennia.


Was the motion we see depicted in early cave art a result of the actual motion seen by the artist within the cave? Perhaps this is why the subjects where always living creatures, and not still life or landscapes.

The pectographs and pictographs of horses, bulls, oxen and ibexes, mammoths, cats, rhinos, stags, bison, bovine, and bears are the most often documented art seen in caves. Even in Australian caves we see kangaroos. Still life and landscapes are not seen, or at least are rare.

In speaking of the Altamira cave paintings which are comprised mostly of bison, Matthew S. Johnson writes "These pictures are of the animals only and contain no landscape or horizontal base."

Enclosed Cave Using A Hide Covering

Enclosed cave using a hide covering

Did these artists see the animals outside their caves or tents, and then go inside and paint from memory? Or did they actually see these animals from within the caves, moving on an inside cave wall? In his study of the Altamira cave discovery, Jochen Duckeck writes "Basically, the pictures are dynamic and the movement of the animals comes to life through the thoughtful use of the reliefs and uneven surface of the walls, thus creating a breathtaking effect."

If men did see animals moving on the walls of their caves, this then may expalin why they painted an upside-down horse on the wall of the Painted Gallery at Lascaux, France.

Why would the artist paint an animal upside down on the wall? Perhaps its because he saw an upside down horse on the wall. It has been shown that the pinhole image can be seen in this very environment.

Pinhole In The Hide Covering The Entrance
Pinhole in the hide covering the entrance

It is quite possible therefore that the camera obscura effect was seen in primitive times and documented as well. Not with ink on paper however, but with primitive paint on cave walls.

Matt Gatton presents one such theory in his work, The Camera Obscura and the Origin of Art: the Case for Image Projection in the Paleolithic. The photographs to the right from Gatton's field research show that camera obscura caves are more than a theory.

Afterall, is not the camera obscura simply a dark room with a hole? If the pinhole image can be seen through crossed wicker, crossed fingers, or the leaves in trees, why not a hole in a hide covering used to seal a cave entrance?

Image Of The Horse On The Inside Cave Wall In It's Natural State - Upside Down

Image of the horse on the inside cave wall in it's natural state - upside down

Image Of The Horse On The Inside Cave Wall - Uprighted

The image to the left is the up-righted horse from Matt Gatton's field work (three right images above) showing that the camera obscura effect could very well have been seen by early men who lived in caves or tents.

Is the camera obscura effect the reason why we see a painted image of an upside down horse in the Grotte de Lascaux in France? (see below)

Four images courtesy Matt Gatton.
Visit PALEO-CAMERA The Start Of Art

Matt Gatton's field reconstruction work has given us the above three images (right). The top-most image shows a rock overhang and hide covering producing a small darkened 'cave'- like room; in the centre photograph we see a hole in the hide covering; the bottom image is the horse presented to the early cave dweller on his living room wall.
Gatton's theory is based on a fundamental fact we already know to be true; the pinhole image and the resulting camera obscura effect. In reference to early humans who dwelt in caves or hide-covered tents, Gatton states "Small random holes in these hide tents would have coincidentally and occasionally formed camera obscuras, projecting moving images inside the dwelling spaces."
That the camera obscura effect is a well-known optical principal incorporating a darkened space receiving the linearity of light rays through a small hole, is a phenomenon which is undebatable. It is therefore conceivable that early men saw 'movies' or cinematography, in their own homes as we do today. To this end, Gatton goes on, "Imagine, if you will, a Paleolithic person waking in the morning to find the image of animals walking around on the wall, the three-dimensional world reduced to two dimensions on a surface inside the tent."
If the camera obscura effect was in fact seen by early cave dwellers, this would pre-date the observances of Mo Ti and Aristotle by at least several thousand years.
The Up-Side Down Horse of Lascaux

The Up-Side Down Horse of Lascaux (left) and the up-righted horse (right).

Theorists and historians suggest the horse being in this unique position, was depicted as scratching its back on the ground, playing, or had stumbled and was up-righting itself after a chase.

Image Source: Le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / The Cave Of Lascaux

The Up-Side Down Horse of Lascaux Flipped 180 Degrees

If up-side down horses weren't enough, unicorns have also been seen in cave art.

Ancient Egyptian Art Is An Early Form Of Animation

Although frontality tended to be emphasized through symmetry, leaving little opportunity for movement in the Old Kingdom, the Middle and New Kingdoms saw an emergence of boldness, drive, and inspiration in Egyptian art.

This Egyptian painting (left) shows an example of Middle to New Kingdom vitality in its attempt to portray wrestlers in succesive phases of movement during a practice session or bout. Each pane illustrates the wrestlers grappling for position as if in individual cels.

Modern animation has additional roots in this form of artwork as much as in the spiral friezes of ancient Rome, the Bayeaux Tapestry or any of the Oriental Scrolls of China and Japan. Just like the frames of today never actually move, so do these strips remain motionless, yet are full of movement in the final outcome. Cut these sections into a flipbook and we may just have something.


  ca. 3000 B.C.    
  Egyptians and Babylonians acknowledge light and shadow, and may have used them in primitive forms of entertainment. The Chaldeans may have used magnifying glasses in conjunction with studies in light. Lenses will be unearthed in the 19th century dating back to this period. The Asian shadow play and Japanese mirrors make an appearance. The Chinese will use firelight to illuminate their shadows.  
A Younger Austen Henry Layard

Sir AUSTEN HENRY LAYARD (1817 - 1894)

An archaeologist, Layard excavates the remains of Babylon in 1850 and describes a rock-crystal find dating back to this period (the first lenses).

Layard shook the world a year earlier (1849) when he unearthed Nineveh.

A.H. Layard (left) was 28 (1845) when he began his work
Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London (Drawing by G.F. Watts)


721 - 705 B.C.

Layard discovered this lens (right) which is considered the first used (or found) plano-convex lens. This lens however was not "ground" and polished round but had facets which limited it's ability to magnify. It has been said that this lens could actually have been only an ornament or menagerie. The reproduction shown here shows both a horizontal and straight view.

Illustration Of The Layard Lens
Layard Lens

  ca. 600 B.C.    
  A quartz lens (convex) is found in the ruins of Nineveh dating to this period.  
  SOPHOCLES (ca. 495[6] - 406 B.C.)    
  This great, tragic playwright of classical Greece writes in poetic form the need to keep a "light sensitive substance in a dark room", in his poem 'Trachinierinnen' (History of Photography, J.M. Eder, Columbia Univ. Press, NY, 1945, p4).  

HERODOTUS (484 - 425 B.C.)
Accepts the teaching that "the black emanations of the body" are why the Ethiopian has his colour.
Coin With Image Of Herodotus
Herodotus 484 - 425 BC

  It is documented that this philosopher made some sort of bird made of wood, which apparently 'moved' in the air through the use of air pressure, and counterweights. An early form of automaton it would appear.  

Empedocles, Poet And Statesman
EMPEDOCLES (483 - 424 B.C.)
This self-styled god, poet and statesman said that light was matter, or "corpuscles", and that it emanates from all bodies, reaching the eye. He later flung himself into Mount Etna to convince people of his divinity.

  MO TI (470 - 391 ) B.C.  
  Also known as MOZU, MOTZE, MOTSE, MICIUS and MO-TZU. No further research to date, pre-dates (5th Century B.C.) the Chinese with the documented observance of an inverted image through a pinhole onto a screen. Mohists knew and taught the linearity of light rays. They knew that light travels in straight lines as did the Greeks at or around the same time. Philosophers Mo Ti and Chuang Chou (c.369-286 B.C.) commented on the property of shadows. Mo Ti recorded the observation of an inverted image through a pinhole and talks of the "collecting place"  (aperture). He also explains why the image is inverted and uses the analogy of the oar in the rowlock. Mohists knew and taught that objects reflect light and called it "shinning forth".  
PLATO (428 - 347) B.C.
This Greek philosopher writes that rays of light are emitted from the eyes, and that objects receive these rays. He also philosophizes about shadows on cave walls. In 'The Republic' (360BC), Plato provides for us his concept of the visible world in two separate states; one containing the physical and all that is created, the other being the imagined state as in reflections and shadows.
Bust Of Plato
Plato 428 - 347 BC

Bust Of Aristotle
Aristotle 384 - 322 BC
ARISTOTLE (384 - 322) B.C.
This Greek philosopher taught that objects themselves emit light which the eye sees. Aristotle observes crescent-shaped images created during an eclipse, through small holes in the leaves of trees, furniture and the crossing of the fingers. Aristotle notes that the smaller the hole, the clearer the image. He goes on to observe that regardless of the shape of the pinhole (aperture), the light passing through is always in a circular shape. In his essay entitled 'On The Form Of The Eclipse', Aristotle wrote;

"The image of the sun at the time of the eclipse, unless it is total, demonstrates that when its light passes through a narrow, round hole and is cast on a plane opposite to the hole it takes on the form of a moon-sickle. The image of the sun shows this peculiarity only when the hole is very small. When the hole is enlarged, the picture changes . . . ."
This phenomenon will become known as one of Aristotle's "problems" (Aristotle, A Treatise Called Problems, On Dreams) and will remain unreasoned until the 16th century. Aristotle also referred to the persistence of vision when mentioning after-images.
As did Holmes, Marey and Muybridge some twenty-two centuries later, Aristotle also contemplates the gait of both animals and humans in a short text he wrote entitled In his work he states “If a man were to walk parallel to a wall in sunshine, the line described (by the shadow of his head) would be not straight but zigzag...”. This discussion by Aristotle incorporates the theories of light and shadow, and how they interact. Aristotle said "Nature does nothing uselessly. Nature does nothing in vain".

  DEMOCRITUS (ca. 460 - 370) B.C.    
  Democritus accepted and agreed with the teachings of Aristotle. Aristotle's theory that objects emit light was the closest to the truth (that objects reflect the light that strikes them). Democritus, a Greek philosopher, spoke on colours. He said white objects are made of flat, smooth atoms which cast no shadows. He also said dark objects are made of rough uneven atoms which cast shadows. An incorrect, although interesting thought.  
EUCLID (EUCLEIDES) (fl.ca. 325 - 265) B.C.
This philosopher and outstanding mathematician of his day also agreed with what Aristotle taught. Euclid further studied in optics and taught that each eye perceives a different image and that these two images are "fused" to form the "whole". Euclid talks of the linearity of light and writes his The Optics of which two extant copies exist (Euclid's own treatise and a revision by Theon). Subjects included optics of mirrors, including both flat and spherical mirrors.
Drawing Of Euclid Of Alexandria
Euclid of Alexandria 325 - 265 BC

Parigi's Painting Of Archimedes Burning Glass Warfare
ARCHIMEDES (ca. 287 - 212) B.C.
This Greek mathematician and geometrician considered using burning glasses in warfare to defend the Sicilian colony of Syracuse. His theory was to burn the ships of the enemy by magnifying the sun's rays using the burning glass effect. In the 17th century, Kircher will travel to Syracuse to study the possibility that Archimedes actually carried out the strategy. He provided for us a marvelous illustration depicting the event in his 'Ars Magna' of 1646. Robertson as well, in 1796 will propose to the French government his ‚€˜Miroir d'Archimede‚€™ or Mirrors of Archimedes, and a plan for burning the invading ships of the English navy. The plan was refused.
Archimedes' Burning Glass Warfare
Painting from the Stanzino delle Matematiche in the Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence, Italy). Painted by Giulio Parigi (1571-1635) in 1599.
Galleria degli Uffizi.
  "When Marcellus withdrew them [his ships] a bow-shot, the old man [Archimedes] constructed a kind of hexagonal mirror, and at an interval proportionate to the size of the mirror he set similar small mirrors with four edges, moved by links and by a form of hinge, and made it the centre of the sun's beams--its noon-tide beam, whether in summer or in mid-winter. Afterwards, when the beams were reflected in the mirror, a fearful kindling of fire was raised in the ships, and at the distance of a bow-shot he turned them into ashes. In this way did the old man prevail over Marcellus with his weapons".  
  - GREEK MATHEMATICAL WORKS, Translated by Ivor Thomas, Cambridge, 1941, Volume II, Page 19 Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press  

Example Of Shades
SHAO ONG (ca. 121 ) B.C.
Documented in the 'Shih Chi' and 'Chhien Han Shu' of the Han period (ch.28, p24) [Trans., Chavannes, vol.3, p470] is the shadow play by the magician called Shao Ong who made the spirit (it would appear) of a dead concubine appear to the Emperor Wu Ti. This sort of shadowful illusion was repeated many times throughout Chinese culture and all of Asia. These puppets were made of paper-thin cutouts and were called Shadowplays, and later known as Shades. Also heaped in Chinese culture are the many instances documented where images of landscapes are seen upon frozen surfaces. Rivers, lakes and basins have numerous times been reported to "hold" the scenes of nature.

Shadowplays, or Shades as they were known, came in all shapes and sizes. Although shadows were cast upon walls or behind thin screens, some puppets were actually meant for direct viewing, as this (left) one indicates. Usually made from dried animal skins or primitive paper and then painted, Shades were found in many cultures including China, Turkey and Greece.

  VITRUVIUS ( ca. 80-70 B.C. - ca. 25 B.C.)    
  Officially known as Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, he reports in his work on the metal "minium" (red lead) 'De Architectura' (vii.9) "it spoils immediately when exposed to their rays and the colour looses its vividness and brilliancy, turning black."  SEE PLINY, below.  
  60 B.C.
  This Roman poet and naturalist combines science and poetry in his 'De Rerum Natura' (On The Nature Of Things, T. L. Carus, IV, 768ff) when he refers to some sort of projection show or dream image in poetic form. Perhaps a shadow play or something similar to that of Plato. It has been suggested that this work has been incorrectly interpreted.  
  This poet laureate of Rome writes in his poem 'The Hair of Earinus' (silvae, iii.4, capilli flavi earini) "....do you only fix your glance upon it and leave your features here. Thus he spoke and showed the mirror with the image caught therein." In 1928, the Frankfurter Nachrichten reported on the poem's translation, "his image was permanently fixed on a small silver plate, [the original poem speaks of gold] into which he had gazed for a period of time."  
  PLINY (THE ELDER) (A.D. 23 - 79)    
  Pliny refers to silver chloride and it's potential to darken under sun or moon in his 'Historiae Naturalis' (xxxiii. 55,3) when he says "silver changes it's colour in mineral water as well as by salt air, as, for instance on the Mediterranean shores of Spain", and (xxxiii.40) "the effect of the sun and moon on a coat of minium is injurious." Eder, in his book 'History of Photography' (pp2,7) dispels this as doubtful and suggests hydrogen sulphide as the chemical.  
  Around 50 A.D. Seneca writes on persistence of vision and says that rock-crystal lenses where used as burning glasses. He described the magnification of objects seen in water and wrote, "Letters, however small and indistinct, are seen enlarged and more clearly through a globe of glass filled with water."  
  A.D. 79    
  Excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum reveal a lens.  

  A.D. 113
  In A.D. 113 the Roman Senate as initiated by Emperor Trajan, commissioned the construction of an honourary column to be named after Trajan himself, and his victories in the wars over Dacia (modern day Romania) from 101 until 106. This freestanding triumphant military column had three sections which included; a massive rectangular base depicting the spoils of war in deep base relief; a one hundred foot high main shaft; and a domed pedestal which originally housed a statue of an eagle.  

What makes the Column of Trajan a spectacular entry in the history of cinematography is the magnificent story-telling imagination of these ancients. The memorial appears as if a strip of celluloid has been wrapped around the column.

When we look closer at the column, we see the unique history of two complete conquering wars seen through a spiral frieze 625 feet in length. As if one of the Roman soldiers had taken a film of the Dacian Wars, processed it, and then wrapped it from bottom to top, this base relief monument tells the story of victory frame-by-frame, scene-by-scene.

The spiral frieze winds its way around the column with individual 'scenes' showcasing Trajan's armies in battle. The bottom width of the column begins with an amazing 60cm/2ft then doubles by the time it reaches the top (120cm/4ft). More than 2000 carved figures adorn the frieze, which tells the story of Trajan's Dacian wars between A.D.101-102 and A.D.105-106. The beginning scenes (bottom of the frieze) show soldiers preparing for the war and ends with the conquering of the Dacians.

Trajan's Column

Plaster Casts Of Trajan's Column - Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England

Detail Of The Spiral Frieze of Trajan's Column

  LEFT IMAGE: This is a plaster cast reproduction of the column of Trajan housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The entire column being too high is halved, with the upper half shown in the foreground and the lower half sitting on its base, seen in the background. The individual scenes can be seen as they unravel upwards.  
  CENTRE IMAGE: Close-up of a section of the frieze identifying Dacian warriors attacking a Roman fortress.  
  RIGHT IMAGE: Trajans Column in its entirety. The main shaft consists of 20 individual drums of carrara marble each weighing 40 tons. The drums sit on each other creating the frieze which is 625 feet in height. Each drum is 13 feet in diameter. The frieze winds around the shaft 23 times from bottom to top.  
  Portraying Trajan's two successful campaigns against Dacia, the spiral is read or "seen" as two separate halves; the lower half beginning at the base illustrates the first wars (bewteen A.D. 101 and 102), and the upper half illustrating the latter wars (between A.D. 105 and 106). The scenes on the frieze unfold upwards as if in a strip of film. The scenes show the Roman army within military activities; preparing for battle; engagement of battle; construction; speeches by the emperor, and more. The carvings within the scenes are filled with soldiers, senators, statesmen, priests and sailors.

Over 2,500 Romans and Dacians appear in the frieze with Trajan himself appearing over 50 times.


  Trajan's Column can be found in Trajan's Forum which is part of the Imperial Forums located at Via dei Fori Imperiali, right next to the Piazza Venezia in Rome. A second Roman spiral frieze was completed in A.D. 193. SEE MARCUS AURELIUS  




Drawing From A Bust Of Heron Of Alexandria

A.D. 120
HERON (62 - 125)

Heron of Alexandria (also known as HERO) describes in 'Peri Automatopoietkes' (Constructing Automaton Theatres) "phantom mirrors" and "mirror writing."

Hero also writes in his 'De Speculis' (the oldest extant Greek writing on mirrors) about concave, convex and plane mirrors. His 'Caoptrica' explains the rectilinear propagation of light and the law of reflection.

Hero recorded the description of a bird that sings which utilized a method of hydraulic force. In 1620 Salomon de Caus, a French engineer, will build a replica of this bird. (SEE DE CAUS)

Heron of Alexandria



A.D. 150

Ptolemy accepts Aristotle's view that objects emit light. Ptolemy also writes his 'Almagest' on optics and the universe and speaks of refraction, reflection, persistence of vision and "stereoscopic projection."

Ptolemy also developed his theory on atmospheric refraction in another work, 'Optics'. The book is translated into Latin in the 12th century by Admiral Eugenius Siculus.

Engraving Of Ptolemy
Ptolemy 85 - 165 AD

  TING HUAN (ca. A.D. 180)    
  The ascending convection of hot air from a lamp caused animals and creatures to appear to move naturally in his 'Pipe Which Makes Fantasies Appear." This is perhaps the first account of the marriage of both illumination and movement, created by the same source (lamp).  


A.D. 193

Aurelius was Emperor of Rome between A.D.161 and 180.

Modeled after Trajan's Column, this spriral frieze is also 100 feet high, and commemorates the wars over the Marcomanni and Quadi in Czechia, and the Sarmatians in Hungary in A.D. 175.

The battles over the Marcomanni and Quadi armies in the years 172 and 173 are represented in the first half of the frieze, (the lower half of the column beginning at the bottom spiraling upwards) and the victory over the Sarmatians in the years 174 and 175 are depicted in the upper section (again, spiraling upwards from approx. midway).

Aurelius was known as the "philosopher emperor".

For a large, high-resolution detailed image of this magnificent base relief column, click here.

Column Of Marcus Aurelius Showing Close Up Of The Spiral Frieze

Detail of the spiral frieze of the column of Marcus Aurelius (above)


  ca. A.D. 170 - 200
GALEN (A.D. 129 - 199)
  This Greek physicist and physician studied binocular vision.  

Image Of Boethius
A.D. 510
BOETHIUS (A.D. 475 - 524)

Boethius was a Roman scholar and mathematician and attempts to document the speed of light. In 525 King Theodoric orders him decapitated for treason and magic.

Anicus Manlius Severinus Boethius

  A.D. 750
  This Arabian alchemist observes the effect of light on silver nitrate.  
  Both the Chinese and Arabs continue to observe eclipses using the camera obscura effect.  
  Builds miniature pagodas to observe the pinhole images through a hole onto a screen and therefore learns of the divergence of light rays using the camera obscura effect.  
  ca. A.D. 930
  This traveler and writer describes in his 'Dreams Of The North And Trifling Talk', similar shadowplays to that of magician Shao Ong.  



Landscape, Narrative and Monumental Scrolls are an art form which have been practiced for centuries, mostly in East Asia and concentrating in Japan and China. There are two basic kinds which we see in the Japanese Narrative Scroll and the Chinese Landscape Scroll. Like we have seen in numerous descriptive paintings throughout the world, these scrolls unite storytelling with motion and bring into our minds a cinematic strip full of life and visual movement.

In the same way the Bayeux Tapestry told the story of William of Normandy in this very century, so does the panoramic Chinese painted scroll express movement in two dimensions. Robert Barker in the early 19th century put paintbrush to canvas in his Panoramas of Edinburgh and London. During the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), the royal artist to Emperor Qian Long, Zhang Zeduan, is suggested to have lead four other artists of the court to paint what has become known as "Upper River During Qing Ming Festival" (below).

"Upper River During Qing Ming Festival" Painted During The Northern Song Dynasty
This (above) watercolour on silk is one, if not the, longest landscape scroll in Chinese history. The image seen above is one small section. Full landscape below.
This "Upper River During Qing Ming Festival" scroll depicts hundreds of people in it's full length. As if imagined in the painter's eye from several hundred feet above the Bian River, this majestic panorama of 11th century Chinese life is read from left to right and provides us with scenes of nature and the life of the people. It's a pre-cinematic story told along the same historical timeline to that of film, but without the celluloid.
The Full "Upper River During Qing Ming Festival"
Both sides of the river are clearly visible for a long distance through the capital of Bian Liang which is today the city of Kaifeng in the province of Henan. Zeduan, being a student of realism, created this panorama in minute detail. This painting has been shown to have no less than 1,643 people, 20 boats or ships, over 30 diferent structures and 208 animals.

Our first scene in "Upper River During Qing Ming Festival" shows a burial in a graveyard and travels down river through the countryside, along the banks through busy commercial areas. It depicts the country as well as city life with shopkeepers and merchants, sedans for the traveller, carts being pulled by mules, goods, camels, places of worship, homes, eating places, teahouses, selling stalls, boats and the inviting landscape, all in full colour. And all amongst the splendid backdrop of the Qing Ming Festival. The Qing Ming Festival is a remembrance day for the dead, hence the opening graveyard scene. Celebrated in the spring, the festival participants show respect for their ancestors. They visit their ancestor's tombs, offering food and praying.

Qing Ming means 'pure brightness'. The painting is also known as 'Riverside Scene at Qing Ming' and is almost five metres in length. It is a quarter of a metre in height. "Upper River During Qing Ming Festival" resides at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Pictorial scrolls such as the one to the right are more ornamental to westerners than artistic. They typically are created with accompanying calendars, and show traditional figures in the outdoors while highlighting the wildlife. Mostly ink paintings on lengths of paper or silk, hand scrolls as they are also known are traditional forms of art in Chinese and Japanese culture. Normally the length of the arm, they are read downward or left to right.

In this scroll (right) we see three females feeding their carp.

Modern Japanese Hand Scroll Depicting Motion Through Storytelling
Modern Hand Scroll

ALHAZEN (965 - 1038)
  Also known as IBN AL HAITHAM, ABU ALI ALHASAN IBN ALHASAN, IBNU-I-HAITAM, AL HUSEN or HASSAN IBN HASSAN, this Arabian scholar writes on the observances of the camera obscura effect. Particular attention is drawn to the image of the eclipse and the "sickle-like shapes" in his 'On The Form Of The Eclipse' which includes many descriptions and drawings. As Aristotle did, Alhazen refers to the clarity of the image when the aperture is smaller. His writings on observations are held in London at the India Office Library.  

Avicenna 980 - 1037
AVICENNA (IBN SINA) (980 - 1037)

Avicena suggested that light is emitted from the eyes and unites with the luminous air. Avicenna stated “Now it is established in the sciences that no knowledge is acquired save through the study of its causes and beginnings, if it has had causes and beginnings; nor completed except by knowledge of its accidents and accompanying essentials”.


1064 - 1066

Was the Bayeux Tapestry an early attempt to describe an historical event in cinematic fashion? Was it our first true epic told in embroidered linen and wool instead of celluloid? Or was the Tapestry simply art mirroring life by those who lived it, just like a painting or a sculpture? Was Bishop Odo the first director of a classic tale of a conquering king, and a battle of two nations?

The Tapestry could also be the world's first Panorama. At 70 metres (230 feet) long one might think so. Let's take a look at what the Bayeux Tapestry is and what it does. First of all, the Tapestry tells the story of William The Conqueror and his successful invasion of England, his battle at Hastings in 1066 and the death of King Harold II who may or may not have promised England to William in an earlier visit to Normandy. It has a beginning and an end, as well as other players and other plots to the main scenario. It identifies several locations and depicts many animals (202 horses, over 50 dogs, over 500 more creatures), 623 extras, over 40 ships and was created in color (eight separate shades of wool and yarn were used). It also has a hero and many other main characters in supporting roles.

And what about the linearity of the Tapestry? Like a 70mm strip of linen technicolor it unfolds frame by frame into a masterfully woven story of betrayal, war and victory. Is it then, any different than Ben Hur or Lawrence of Arabia? Or is it more like the early paintings we find at Altamira or Grotte de Lascaux? Perhaps the Tapestry lies somewhere in the middle.

First Scene Of The Bayeux Tapestry 1066

These images (left and below) are of the Bayeux 'copy' which resides at the Museum of Reading in England.

It was created in 1885-1886 and can be seen in one, all connected continuous strip at the museum.

Above - Left to Right - the first few metres of the Bayeux Tapestry. The opening scene is the depiction of Edward The Confessor granting Harold, Earl of Wessex passage to Normandy in the year 1064. Before the trip, Harold travels to Bosham in Sussex to pray. The next scenes of the Tapestry show Harold in feast, the night before the trip.  

Images Source: Museum of Reading (Reading Borough Council) Berkshire, England


The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of William of Normandy's invasion of England and of it's King Harold, and the Battle of Hastings in 1066 as well as the events immediately following. It begins with Harold and Edward the Confessor and ends with Harold and William. The Tapestry is a journey, just as a film is a journey, with players, backgrounds, action, love, hate, desire and above all, a blockbuster ending. It is also, as most historians agree, incomplete.

The Tapestry most ikely had another section which has been lost in time. The section that is believed to be missing could have contained the glorious ending of William The Conqueror's coronation, December 25th, 1066. But like so many early moving pictures of the late 19th century, these frames also, have been lost.


The true Bayeux Tapestry is kept in Bayeux, Normandy and was given the description in 1476 of "a very long and narrow hanging on which are embroidered figures and inscriptions comprising a representation of the conquest of England".

It is believed that in 1070 the half-brother of William of England, Bishop Odo, may have been the one to order the embroidery to be made. The Tapestry was likely embroidered in Kent, England.

Last Scene Of The Bayeux Tapestry 1066
  Above - Left to Right - the last extant scenes of the Tapestry identify William victorious at Hastings. Harold is dead and William will march on to London. The final scene of the Tapestry which is believed to have existed once, may have contained scenes of William on the throne of England, just as Edward was shown to be, in the first.

We know that the Bayeux Tapestry is not a film in the true sense of the word. However, as mankind has always attempted to tell a story through pictures, this very Tapestry of the 11th century is as fine an example as one can find of an attempt to imitate movement through the use of images in a free-flowing pictoral. It demands that we "see" motion, that we "see" the horses running, "hear" the hooves galloping, that we "see" and "hear" the swords swirling in the air, and "see" and "hear" the waves lapping against the hulls of the ships as they sail across the English Channel.



  See the full Tapestry (static) from beginning to end HERE. (opens to 21,902 x 173 pixels)  
The Full Bayeux Tapestry

See an animated portion of the Bayeux Tapestry Here.

This animation by David Newton begins with the crowning of Harold and ends with his death at Hastings.

The animation runs 4 minutes and 25 seconds.

Thanks to Mrs. M. Dunham.

Animated Version

SHEN KUA (1035 - 1095)

Talks of the camera obscura's inverted image, the collecting place, burning mirrors and the focal point. In his 'Meng hsi pi-t'an' (Dream Creek Essays), Shen Kua refers to the inversion of the shadow and goes on to say that when images are reflected in a burning-mirror (concave), they are inverted. He talks about the 'obstruction' as the place where the image disappears when reflected in the mirror. As he says, "It is also like the shadows of pagodas seen through the holes in windows" (Meng hsi pi-t'an (Dream Creek Essays), Passage on the Inversion of the Shadow, Shen Kua, 1088).

Waist Drum illustration by Ch'en Yang, 1104 (Image Source: Harvard Yenching Institute)
Ch'en Yang's 'Waistdrum' Illustration
Shen Kua presented his concept and understanding of the Mohist's 'collecting place'. He called it the 'obstruction' or an invisible place. He wrote how the image seen reflected from a concave lens will disappear between the center of the surface, and the focal point. This he called the obstruction. Something we now know to be the aperture where the rays of light cross and there is no image at that very point. This (right) illustration is taken from a summary abstract by Ch'en Yang in the year 1104. Kua attempted to show the waist-drum as an analogy of two shadows meeting, forming the invisible, or collecting place where it is the narrowest. The unlearned reader may understand this better with the observance of the following experiment;
  EXPERIMENT: Use a concave lens or mirror (curves inward). Place a small distinguishable object on the tip of a pin. Choose something that can be distinguished as being upside-down. Move the pin very close to the centre of the mirror and observe the object's image (depending on the size of the mirror, closeness of 1/2 to 3/4 of a centimeter may be required). Slowly pull the object back, keeping the image centrally aligned. Observe the image while pulling back.

OBSERVANCE: Notice that while the image is close-up, it's reflection is seen in it's upright state. As the image is withdrawn from the surface slowly, there is a point in which the image is not seen on the surface of the lens. This then, is the 'obstruction', or collecting place that She Kua talked about. His oar in the rowlock so to say. As you pull the image back further, it appears inverted.

CONCLUSION: In understanding this 'collecting place' more fully, consider the burning-glass effect. If the object is held indefinitely at the point of image-loss, and while being out-of-doors on a sunny hot day, the object likely will become flames or melt. This is because the heat of the sunlight being reflected and concentrated at this point is greatest. This phenomenon however is not restricted to light solely. It can be understood also in the use of micro, and sound waves as in the use of satellite and parabolic dishes. SEE MO TI.

In explaining his understanding of this 1,400+ year old discovery of the Mohists, Kua used things in the sky such as clouds, birds and kites. He stated factually that if seen in the sky, the shadows of these objects naturally move in the same direction on the ground. However, when seen through an aperture such as the hole-in-a-window analogy, the object and it's shadow/reflection, go in opposite directions. Needham translated Shen Kua's Meng Chhi Pi Than (on the inversion of the shadow) as;

". . . . . The burning-mirror reflects objects so as to form inverted images. This is because there is a focal point in the middle (i.e. between the object and the mirror). The mathematicians call investigations about such things Ko Shu. It is like the pattern made by an oar moved by someone on a boat against a rowlock (as fulcrum). We can see it happening in the following example. When a bird flies in the air, it's shadow moves along the ground in the same direction. But if its image is collected (like a belt being tightened) through a small hole in a window, then the shadow moves in the direction opposite to that of the bird. The bird moves to the east while the shadow moves to the west, and vice versa. Take another example. The image of a pagoda, passing through the hole or small window, is inverted after being 'collected'. This is the same principle as the burning-mirror. Such a mirror has a concave surface, and reflects a finger to give an upright image if the object is very near, but if the finger moves farther and farther away it reaches a point where the image disappears and after that the image appears inverted. Thus the point where the image disappears is like the pinhole of the window. So also the oar is fixed at the rowlock somewhere at its middle part, constituting, when it is moved, a sort of 'waist' and the handle of the oar is always in the position inverse to the end (which is in the water). One can easily see (under the proper conditions) that when one moves one's hand upwards the image moves downwards, and vice versa. [Since the surface of the burning-mirror is concave, when it faces the sun it collects all the light and brings it to a point one or two inches away from the mirror's surface, as small as a hempseed. It is when things are at this point that they catch fire. This is indeed the place where the 'waist' is smallest.] "

- Joseph Needham,, Physics, Part IV, G (optics), 4.Camera Obscura, pp97,99 Science and Civilization in China

AVERROES (IBN RUSCHD) (1126 - 1198)
  This Arab philosopher studies eye movement and vision, and comments on Aristotle's view of perspective and rays of light.  

  ROBERT GROSSETESTE (1168 - 1253)    
  This contemporary of Roger Bacon used plano-convex lenses. He became Chancellor of Oxford University in 1215. Grosseteste worked on geometry, optics and astronomy. In optics he experimented with mirrors and with lenses. He believed that experimentation must be used to verify a theory by testing its consequences. In his work 'De Iride' he wrote;
"This part of optics, when well understood, shows us how we may make things a very long distance off appear as if placed very close, and large near things appear very small, and how we may make small things placed at a distance appear any size we want, so that it may be possible for us to read the smallest letters at incredible distances, or to count sand, or seed, or any sort or minute objects."               - Robert Grosseteste
Water-Filled Sherical Lens

This diagram of a water-filled sperical lens has been associated with both Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste but has not been attributed to either.

The image is taken from A.C. Crombie's 'Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science' , and is identified as Figure 2. The quotation accompanying it reads: "Diagram illustrating Grosseteste's theory of the focusing of the sun's rays by a spherical lens, from Roger Bacon's Opus Maius".


  Further examples of illumination and movement are mentioned in the 'Meng Liang Lu' written by the Chinese scholars Chiang Khuei and Fang Chheng during the Sung dynasty. In poetic form they describe "how the horses prance around after the lamp is lit." Similar entries tell "how the smoke gives life and spirit to the figures in the 'lanthorn' where they seem to walk, turn, ascend and descend."  Clearly, motion is represented when it describes horses "running", vessels "sailing", and armies "marching". These celebrated incidents in Chinese culture are referred to by both Hangchow (1275 A.D.) who also talks of the "flying dragons", and Gabriel Magalhaens (ca.1650).  
  Chinese curiosity in some matters of physics, namely optics, waned drastically during the next three centuries.  
RAMON LLULL (1232 - 1316)

Late in the 13th Century we see examples of pop-up and movable, or 'moving' books. One early example is that of Ramon Llull. Llull was a Catalan mystic and poet who used revolving discs and volvelles to illustrate his religious and scholarly theories. These 'mechanical' books were seen much earlier than in Llull's time, but is wasn't until the 18th Century that we saw pop-ups and movables appear in children's and entertainment books.

Revolving discs and volvelles allowed perspective and illusion thereby giving a sense of motion in story-telling. Today we see pop-up books mostly, with limitations in motion through the use of flaps which open to show a scene, character or background. In his later years Llull lived in Genoa and was martyred at Bougie for his religious beliefs.

To see a fine selection of Volvelles and everything pop-up, visit RobertSabuda.com

Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon
1214 - 1294
ROGER BACON (1214 - 1294)

This proponent of medieval science writes in his treatise 'De Multiplicatione Specierum' (Book II, ch.viii) and 'Perspectiva', the principle of the camera obscura. He talks of observing the view outside a darkroom, and eclipses by way of a ray of light passing through an aperture and projecting itself. Bacon speaks of the camera obscura effect but does not describe the apparatus. His most important mathematical contribution is the application of geometry to optics. Bacon followed Grosseteste in emphasizing the use of lens for magnification to aid natural vision.
"Great things can be performed by refracted vision. If the letters of a book, or any minute object, be viewed through a lesser segment of a sphere of glass or crystal, whose plane is laid upon them, they will appear far better and larger."       - Roger Bacon

ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1193 - 1280)

Also known as COUNT ALBERT VON BOLLSTADT, this Dominican scholar and mentor of Thomas Aquinas studies the rainbow effect of light and says it's velocity is finite, but great. Magnus studies the action of silver nitrate under sunlight.
Drawing Of Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus 1193-1280

  ca. 1277
Little known WITELO, WITECK or VITELLIO (ca. 1230 - 1280?)
  A physicist of polish origin who also went by the name of THURINGOPOLONUS, notes in a manuscript on optics believed to be written before 1277 (perhaps in 1271 when he was at Viterbo, Italy) that "all light passing through angular apertures is projected in a circular form."  This phenomenon once documented by Aristotle is now over sixteen hundred years old and still unexplained.  
JOHN PECKHAM (1228 - 1291)
  A physics scholar, Peckham details in his 'Perspectivae Communis Libri', the image of the eclipsed sun through any hole (camera obscura) into a darkened place.  

  This French astronomer writes in an almanac the impairment of the eyes if the eclipse (in this case June 5, 1285) is viewed for too long. In some cases, spectators complained of near blindness for several days, others for hours. This manuscript was dated five years later in 1290. In order to eliminate this loss of vision, Saint-Cloud went on to explain the use of the camera obscura for viewing the sun during an eclipse . . . .  
  "In the year of our LORD 1285, on the 5th day of June, it happened that those who too intently observed the sun (during the eclipse) found their vision was impaired when they went into the shade again. This dazzled condition lasted with some two days, with others three and with some others several days, according to the length of time they had stared at the sun and the degree in which their eyes were sensitive .... In order to eliminate this and to be able to observe without danger the beginning, the end, and the extent of the eclipse, one should make in the roof of a house, or in the window, an opening towards that part of the sky where the eclipse of the sun will appear, and the size of the hole should be about the same as that made in a barrel for the purpose of drawing off wine. Opposite the light of the sun entering through the opening, should be placed, at a distance of twenty or thirty feet, something flat, for instance a screen. A ray of light will then be seen delineating itself on the screen in a round shape, even if the aperture is angular. The illuminated spot will be bigger than the opening, the larger, in fact, the further the screen is moved away from it, but then the image will be more feeble than if the screen is placed closer."  
(This quote taken from the work of Georges Potonniee, The History of the Discovery of Photography, p21).
  The camera obscura continued to be a useful tool for watching eclipses. Like Archimedes, Saint-Cloud talked of the power of lenses and mirrors.  

Arnaud De Villeneuve

Also known as ARNOLD OF VILLANOVA, Villeneuve was a practicing physician and wrote on alchemy. A magician and showman in his leisure time, Villeneuve used the camera obscura to present "moving shows" or "cinema" by placing his audiences in the darkened room and would have the actors perform outside. The image of the performance would be cast on the inside wall. Villeneuve would often enact wars, or the hunting of animals with the actual noises of such, which would be heard from inside. This performance is highly reminiscent of today's theatre patrons sitting in a darkened theatre, watching the screen (or wall), including sight and sound.

Arnold of Villanova 1238-1314
  This Jewish philosopher and mathematician was also known as LEON DE BAGNOIS. Gershon wrote in his 'Hebrew De Sinibus Chordis Et Arcubus', ways of observing solar eclipses using the camera obscura. He commented that no harm came to his eyes when using this effect. His observances and writings are similar to those of his predecessor, Alhazen.  
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