The fact which we find interesting is that the red lead adheres to the paper better and more thickly where the pressure has been strongest and further that the impression thus given is in negative, because the round parts, which make the strongest impression, would be in highest relief if the sole of the foot were looked at in the light and yet represented by the darkest tones. In the impressions obtained by Dr. Recher there are no deformations, as the foot can be applied directly on a flat surface.
THE PROCESS NECESSARY TO PRODUCE PRINTS BY SIMPLE CONTACT
To make the experiment choose an object which can readily be represented on a flat surface—do not try to obtain great depth of effect— try to reproduce the modellings in their relative values by pressing gently with the hand over the subject which the linen covers.
And we may here allude to a want of similarity in Dr. Recher's prints by direct contact, namely that the inside modelling of the foot is shaded, but that the contours have a hard outline; and this is natural. The patient in walking plants his heel firmly ; after resting a moment on his toes, he loses contact with the paper as he walks along, and the impression suddenly ends. The shading corresponding to the distance between the object smeared with red lead and the cloth which receives the impression should be the same on the outside of the print as it is on the inside. It should be so if an impression is to be complete, and it is so in the Holy Shroud.
This criticism is not of a very serious nature, and if the theory of a forger making false impressions by some mechanical process could be met in no better way we would at once admit that with a little additional skill it might have been done. The means are simple. If the shading of the contours is desired, rub gently with the finger when the print is finished in such a way as to graduate them, and it is done.
But some shading may be done without intention. Let us suppose that we are going to take the print of the front view of a corpse lying on the ground. We should firmly press the cloth along the central line of the body and more lightly on the sloping surfaces, graduating our passes so that the general contours take form by degrees.
We specify the front view because it would not be the same if the print were made by a figure lying on a piece of cloth. In that case every point where the body had pressed heavily would seem flat and hard at the edges, just as did the footprint. To round off the outlines it would be necessary to rub them with the finger.
This demonstration is not without value, because it shows us that it is possible to produce the imprint of a corpse on a cloth like that of Turin fraudulently as far as the trunk and limbs were concerned, but utterly impossible to so produce an impression of the head, as we shall see.
In the foregoing arguments we have pleaded the cause of the forger, and have made concessions in his favour which even M. Chevalier seems indisposed to grant. These concessions were legitimate and necessary, but we cannot concede more; and we now affirm that it is impossible by simple contact, even with after corrections, to reproduce a human head.
We will suppose the forger to be at his work, trying to obtain such an impression as may be seen on the Holy Shroud.
Our first remark is that the sides of the face starting from the cheekbones have not touched the cloth (we have already mentioned the small lateral cushions used in mummy burial). Secondly, we see at the sides two locks of hair which seem to have been stiffened and thickened. This hair is on a level with the cheek-bones. As the body is lying on its back, these locks of hair, if they had been free, would by their natural weight have fallen back on the general mass of hair which the back impression reproduces very well. These two strands of hair then must have been separated from the rest, and when the head was bowed forward may have become coagulated with dust and sweat, though this would scarcely suffice to produce this effect. Or these two locks of hair may have rested on the lateral cushions.
We have a second reason for suggesting that there were cushions or similar supports placed on each side of the head. In the front impression the shoulders do not appear, therefore the cloth did not touch this part of the body ; it must have been supported on each side of the head and must have rested again on the chest lower down.
Supposing the forger to have realized all this, he would not have committed the mistake of letting the cloth envelop the nose, nor would he have allowed it to press against the sunken portions of the face as closely as the raised parts.
We will credit him with all the skill that he might have acquired in making prints similar to those of Dr. Recher. The operator, we will say, has stretched the linen with great care, fixing the edges ; he will be content to let the cloth rest on the bridge of the nose, on the forehead, and on the chin ; also on the cheek-bones. To make the modelling possible he will have made the cloth touch the sloping portions, such as the sides of the nose, lightly. He will have endeavoured to let it touch the lips with great delicacy.
Under these conditions even the eyeballs might give an impression which need not be too pronounced.
We have ourselves submitted personally to such an experiment at the Sorbonne, and are therefore able to describe from experience the method which the forger of Lirey might have employed if he had had the patience and skill.
The writer lay down on an operating-table, and his face was carefully smeared with red chalk. The same thing had been done to a false beard which was fixed on to his face in order to approach as nearly as possible to the conditions indicated on the print; in order also to bring all the lower part of the face to one plane. Dr. E. Herouard, Maitre de Conferences at the Sorbonne, and his friend and colleague, M. Robert, Associate of the University, proceeded personally to try and take a print. They were well acquainted with the impressions on the Holy Shroud, and wished to assure themselves as to the possibility of such a portrait being produced by simple contact.