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Painting with FireSir Joshua Reynolds, Photography, and the Temporally Evolving Chemical Object$
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Matthew C. Hunter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226390253

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226390390.001.0001

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“Pictures … in time petrify’d”

“Pictures … in time petrify’d”

(p.25) 1 “Pictures … in time petrify’d”
Painting with Fire

Matthew C. Hunter

University of Chicago Press

This chapter surveys research into artificial phosphorus conducted in the 1670s by leading figures in the early Royal Society of London. Mastered by itinerant chymists from German-speaking lands, artificial phosphorus could be synthesized from human waste, then rubbed onto visual art to make it glow in the dark. But, it also spoke to broader interests: studies of light and combustion, production of organic vitality, and other problems of central interest to Restoration experimentalists. Tracking phosphorus research through those networks, the chapter centers on a spectacular lecture read twice before the Royal Society in summer 1682 by Robert Hooke. The final installment of his lectures on light, Hooke’s text used competing preparations of artificial phosphorus to model the ontology of time and to explain key features of human temporality. Examining how Hooke’s controversial claims about time would be reconfigured by contemporaries such as Nehemiah Grew, the chapter concludes by examining the ways in which the phosphorus research theorized by Hooke would later be claimed in larger chemical genealogies of photographic image-making.

Keywords:   Art and Science, Chemistry and Art, Phosphorus, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Nehemiah Grew, Philosophy of Time, Fossils, History of Photography

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