Georges Demeny French

Not on view

The motion-capture suits worn by today’s green-screen stars might not impress inventor Georges Demeny. As early as the 1880s, he was devising analogue versions of these effects as an assistant to Etienne-Jules Marey, the physiologist whose motion studies anticipated cinema. To depict the infinitesimal gestures of athletes, the men adorned models’ limbs with reflective strips, adding white balls to pinpoint their joints. Using a camera that made multiple, rapid-fire exposures on a single photographic plate, they recorded ranges of movement undetectable to the eye.

Demeny went on to tailor this practice, known as chronophotography, to his research on calisthenics. Here, he has whitened an Olympic fencer’s blade with chalk and waxed its tip for maximum visibility. As it darts through space, Demeny distills its split-second swoop into a dashing abstract dance.

[Fencer], Georges Demeny (French, 1850–1917), Gelatin silver print

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.