The Chiaroscuro Church – An Appreciation (Dennis Aubrey)


I am working on a longer post on the chiaroscuro effect in churches, but yesterday’s post made me shake my head in wonder. PJ’s shot of the side aisle at the Cathédrale Saint Front in Périgueux is perfection. I stare and it is almost like a painting.

Side aisle, Cathedrale Saint Front, Périgueux (Dordogne)  Photo by PJ McKey

Side aisle, Cathedrale Saint Front, Périgueux (Dordogne) Photo by PJ McKey

Photography sometimes makes it difficult to appreciate the chiaroscuro effects – our long exposures illumine the darkest areas and we make adjustments to tone down the brightest elements to bring the images into a balance. But here in this shot of Saint Front, PJ has captured and edited the shot magnificently. From the wonderful contrasts in light and dark to the perfection of the diamond of light in the center of the aisle, I am at a loss to describe my admiration.

18 responses to “The Chiaroscuro Church – An Appreciation (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Cudos to PJ.. This is a breathtaking capture. I wonder if medieval painters saw these shadows as the artistic work of God? Surely their knowledge of perspective would have been greatly advanced… Just beautiful!

    • Thanks, Vann. I don’t know how the medieval painters reacted to these shadows, but am certain that the builders did so. Light (and therefore shadow) were crucial to their visual palette. PJ has the wonderful modern sensibility of converting the 3-D visual image to a 2-D pattern, exemplified in this shot.

  2. It took my breath away! One only stumbles onto a scene like that by blessed chance (or by patient waiting – but then that wouldn’t be stumbling, would it?)

    • Jay, this shot was on yesterday’s post but “buried” at the end. Needed to do something to make up for that! PJ never waits; she is constantly moving, constantly exploring until she sees something. She did a wonderful post about “Getting the Shot” that shows the difference between the two of us.

  3. When I saw the shot yesterday, I wanted to print and save it, but somehow, to remove it from context would have been sacrilegious, so I saved the blog, instead so I could look again. Thanks for highlighting PJ’s glorious photo.

  4. Thanks to all for your comments! I always feel lucky to be in these amazing churches at the moment when light and shape presents itself.

  5. Chiaroscuro in all forms of art is one of my favorite things; light and dark is such a powerful motif. On another note, Perigeuex was where I comitted my gravest mistake. I didn´t make it into the cathedral there because both days that I arrived in the city (bookended by my detour to see Lascaux) it was too late and St. Font was closed. So I still have to go back.

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