Images with details

Digital processing has made it possible to achieve significant improvements in image visibility even in cases where the clarity of the photograph was, at least in some of its parts, very limited or was so poor as to be almost unreadable. But the most interesting results such a methodology provided in the activity of searching for and handling the details of the photographs.

Thus, architectural elements emerged that, to the naked eye, were not legible in the background, as well as objects blurred in the landscape such as the cannon carriage present in a photograph of Villa Savorelli, or people who were almost invisible such as the young man dressed with a certain sophistication in the photograph "Batteria alla cinta aureliana." Particularly satisfying is the way in which the writing on the wall in the photograph "Antica Osteria Cucina" clearly emerged, allowing us to read the Article 5 of the Preamble to the French Constitution of 1848.


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The hypothesis of Lecchi’s sharing of republican ideals is significantly bolstered by his choice of photographing the façade of the Antica osteria cucina where was transcribed, in the original language, the fifth article of the preamble of the French constitution of November 4th, 1848, which proclaimed how the French Republic respected all foreign nationalities, would not undertake any war of conquest, and would never use force against the freedom of any people.

The image will be diffused later through the lithograph printed by Carlo Soleil in 1870 where the figures of French soldiers were inserted to make the scene more incisive. Digital analysis of the photograph made it possible to ascertain that this writing had not been added by the engraver, but rather was already present in Lecchi’s calotype. This photograph constitutes evidence that he embraces the complaint against the French attack on Rome. By photographing this inscription, he highlights, in a visual warning, the whole moral denunciation against the French expedition. Article 5 constituted almost the emblem of the Roman protest against the French invasion.

A digital analysis of the details of Lecchi’s image of the Aranciera of the Villa Borghese shows that, what appears to be a person sitting on a mound of ruins, seems to be a woman «garibaldescamente» dressed. In this case we would be faced, although the conditional is inevitably due, with the first photograph of a woman with obvious symbols of openly lived and expressed patriotic faith, if not of a combatant (Critelli 2004). Taking up arms and fighting meant being citizens ready to die for the homeland while reasons, especially practical ones, conditioned the very structure of dress leading the female fighter to masculinize herself, to dress in a way that combined the need to display her identity with practical needs that conditioned her choice of clothing.

It arouses curiosity, but at the same time is interesting for the urban and social history of Rome, the photograph depicting the so-called Tempio di Vesta. The detail of the base of the building shows a group of people in an absolute resting position. Some are leaning against a column, some are sitting on the steps, some are even lying down. The only person in motion is a priest, recognizable by his cassock dress, who is descending the steps of what, at that time, was still the church of Santa Maria del Sole. All in all, we are witnessing a scene of daily life, with a slow, almost village-like, rhythm, in an area that at that time constituted the extreme outskirts of the town.

(Mario Bottoni)