A highly skilled, time consuming technique for recording ancient bronzes was developed in China in the mid 19th Century. The method was a way of cataloging these three dimensional objects, but became an artform in itself. The ornate bronze vessels were possessions of the ancient aristocracy, used for everyday life and rituals, and often discovered in mountains and rivers.
The craftsman took rubbings of parts of the vessel and then pieced them together to create a collage. Taking two dimensional rubbings was already in the culture, as a means of recording stone carvings. This new 3-d way of working was made possible by the development of paper and printing inks.
As the idea of perspective was introduced to China, the rubbings changed. The craftsmen used light and contrast to increase the three dimensional quality of the images. At the same time, photography was being invented. Photography superceeded the craft of Full Surface Rubbing, though the images created by its masters are rare and valuable.