Putting Today’s Mystery Artifact into Perspective

Today’s mystery artifact was pretty obscure. Too obscure, in fact, for many guesses or any correct answers. (Although three people did respond with some version of “artist’s easel,” which is within the realm of the right idea. Sort of.)

How fitting, then, that a version of the word “obscure” is in the name of the item itself.

Believe it or not, this is a handmade camera obscura from 1824. The craftsman? Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847), the first Congregational minister of Blue Hill. A true Renaissance man, Fisher’s resume included not only administering to his flock, but painting and drawing, inventing, woodworking, writing, farming, and surveying, among other things.

Jonathan Fisher used his homemade camera obscura to help create this painting: "Morning View - Blue Hill."

He designed and built his camera obscura to create his famous painting Morning View – Blue Hill. (See the original painting in Rocklands’s Farnsworth Art Museum, or a reproduction at the Jonathan Fisher House in Blue Hill.)  The device is made of wood and glass and projects an image onto paper in order to draw it. Fisher’s model folds into a portable compartment.

Read more about the camera obscura–and see a wide variety of types of the device–in this Wikipedia entry. For more information about Jonathan Fisher’s life, work, and many interests–including images of his other inventions–enjoy the exhibit “Jonathan Fisher: Unlocking the Person Behind the Parson on Blue Hill’s Maine Community Heritage Project website.

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