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HomeContentsThemes > Pantograph


Information requests
940.01   Improving content on photographic techniques
940.02   Invention of the pantograph
940.03   François Willème: Photosculpture
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated.
Information requests 
940.01   Drawing and optical devices >  Improving content on photographic techniques 
We are seeking to expand the themes covering photographic techniques and processes. These sections will include:
  • Invention of the process
  • Any related patents
  • Trade literature
  • Contemporary advertisements and announcements of the innovation
  • A description of the process and its variants
  • Historical examples and details of where examples can be located in public collections
  • Contemporary examples by photographers using the exact process.
Conservation will not initially be included but may be in the future if required.
940.02   Drawing and optical devices >  Invention of the pantograph 
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Between 1603 and 1605 Christoph Scheiner invented the pantograph which is an instrument for copying plans on any scale. The use of mechanical linkages transfer what is drawn with one pen through fixed rods to a second pen which is drawing at a different scale. Christoph Scheiner published his invention in Pantographice seu Ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cavum which was published in Rome in 1631. The device has utility in copying diagrams and there are still tools and copying machines that use the same principle. 
940.03   Drawing and optical devices >  François Willème: Photosculpture 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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French sculptor François Willème (1830-1905) used and patented a system of his own invention for taking multiple simultaneous photographs of three-dimensional objects or people from different standardized distances around the subject. Alden Scott Boyer acquired a number of photographs that were based on the work of François Willème and photohistorian Beaumont Newhall described in a 1958 article how he had worked in his studio in the nineteenth century:
Inside, a silver plumb bob hung from the very center of the skylight. Directly beneath it was a raised circular platform with numbers 1 to 24 printed on it. The walls of the gallery were carved with carved pilasters into twenty-four panels, in the centers of which were handsome statues, supported on carved brackets or consoles. Not a camera was in sight.
The sitter was posed on the dais, with his head directly beneath the plumb bob. He was instructed to hold the pose for ten seconds - and that was all there was to having one's photosculpture taken. Compared with the hours upon hours of tiresome sitting for the orthodox sculptor, the new invention promised to be a great success.
Unseen by the sitter, twenty-four pictures of him had been taken by twenty-four miniature cameras, cleverly hidden inside the consoles. Each camera had a shutter, and these were synchronized by a system of cords controlled by an operator. The photographs which resulted were only a means to an end, and themselves possessed no artistic quality. As Boyer pointed out, all the paraphernalia and clutter of the studio was recorded - headrests and all. But the set of negatives contained sufficient information to enable François Willème to make a statue with a minimum of skill of hand and effort.
The second operation was to make lantern slides from the negatives.
The workroom where the photographs were transformed into three-dimensional sculptures presented as unusual an appearance as the studio. A battery of lantern slide projectors stood in a line, their lenses focused on translucent screens approximately six fee high. Beside each screen was a stout workbench on which there was a revolving platform divided exactly like the posing dais into twenty-four numbered sections. Modeling clay was piled on this platform and roughly shaped by hand into the size and form of the final statue.
The next step was to transfer the outline thrown on the screen by the magic lantern to the clay. This Willème did by means of a pantograph, adapted from the draftsman's instrument for reducing drawings. Four levers are so joined together in a parallelogram shape that the movement of the end of one lever is exactly reproduced by the other end but in reduced degree. Willème fastened a modeling tool at one end of his pantograph, which was arranged vertically, and a stylus at the other. As he traced the outline of the projected photograph, the modeling tool bit into the clay. After tracing the outline, Willème next traced the secondary features - eyes, nose, mouth.
Now a second slide was put into the projector. The translucent screen, which could be adjusted vertically and horizontally, was moved until a mark in the center was exactly opposite the plumb bob. The revolving platform holding the clay was turned to correspond to the number of the photograph, and the process was repeated.
After the twenty-four photographs had been traced, the result was a statue, which simply needed to be smoothed off before being cast into a more permanent form.[1]
François Willème patented his invention in the United States[2] and it was used to create sculptures of Admiral Farragut and Ulysses S. Grant

  1. Λ Beaumont Newhall, May 1958, "Photosculpture", Image: Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the George Eastman House, no. 61, pp. 100-105 
  2. Λ 9 August 1864, "F. Willeme: Photographing Sculpture", U. S. Patent No. 43,822,


HomeContents > Further research

General reading 
Newhall, Beaumont, 1958, May, ‘Photosculpture‘, Image: Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the George Eastman House, no. 61, pp. 100-105 [] [Δ
Scheiner, Christoph, 1631, Pantographice seu Ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cavum, (Rome) [Δ
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - 

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François Willème  (1830-1905)
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ThumbnailDrawing and optical devices 
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ThumbnailDrawing and drafting aids: Pantographs 
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Refreshed: 19 January 2015, 00:56
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