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The image lacks the sharp outline and vivid color of a painting and is described as "melting away" as the viewer approaches the cloth.
Yet the consensus of skeptical opinion up to the 1930s (with a few surviving remnants today) was that the image was indeed a medieval painting of Jesus which had through time taken on the appearance of a truly ancient relic.
Modern technology served as a catalyst to renewed controversy when the Shroud was first photographed, during a rare exhibition in 1898.
Black-and-white photography had the fortuitous effect of considerably heightening the contrast of the image, thus bringing out details not readily discernible to the naked eye.
From its first recorded exhibition in France in 1357, this cloth has been the object of mass veneration, on the one hand, and scorn from a number of learned clerics and freethinkers, on the other.
Appearing as it did in an age of unparalleled relic-mongering and forgery and, if genuine, lacking documentation of its whereabouts for 1,300 years, the Shroud would certainly have long ago been consigned to the ranks of spurious relics (along with several other shrouds with similar claims) were it not for the extraordinary image it bears.Sepia-yellow in color, the apparent frontal and dorsal imprints of a man's body may be discerned on this 4.3 X 1.1-m linen cloth.Stains of a slightly darker carmine or rust color, with the appearance of blood, are seen in areas consistent with the biblical account of the scourging and crucifixion of Christ.Remarkably, its negative image was found to be an altogether more lifelike portrait of the body and, especially, of the face.From the rather grotesque and murky facial imprint visible on the cloth, reversal of light and dark revealed a harmonious and properly proportioned visage.This discovery of course created a sensation in the media, with claims of miraculous intervention and accusations of darkroom hoax.