This blog post will try to delve into the history and the origins of the below image, providing pros and cons for whether this image is an official render, and allow you to make your own decision on it. We'd also like to state that we have not found this image on any 'official' TR page, nor have we found it to belong to a certain person or to have a certain name attached to it; we simply want to talk through our thought process on what we make of it.
Now that you've had the chance to see the image, let us begin with how we came across it.
Many years back, whilst going through old fansites, we once came across an image of Lara that we had never seen before. This was back when we hadn't seen the official Style Guide or the official wallpapers that were given out. This was also back when we were younger fans who saved everything that was Lara Croft (we must add that as we have gotten older, we decided to keep mainly anything official and the odd fan thing that we liked). Then sometime later, we had found this it again, and this time, we took the weblink of the fansite that we had seen it on.
This render shows Lara happily in a state of undress. It is a rather risqué type of image, and obviously brings Lara's feminine features to the forefront. Images like this weren't too uncommon in the marketing side of Tomb Raider, where they would show Lara wearing little whilst she was still covered or hidden in the important places. We have seen two versions of the same posing: one on a green background where Lara has a plait over her left shoulder, and one on a white background where Lara is either wearing her hair in a bun or the plait is hidden out of sight. We're not sure which image came first; they both are seen on websites that date to around 1999. We think maybe the green background version came first as the Lara on the white background seems to have a greenish glow on her left side. If this is true, then someone must've altered Lara's hair and added in the skin over her arm and shoulder. Looking at these places, it looks really well done - no sudden colour difference, no obvious repainted marks, the shape of the arm looks good, and the hair fits the orientation of the head well too. Maybe this could mean that both versions were real. The version with the white background has a noticeable mark that doesn't appear on the green background image, which can be seen on the lower right portion of her hair, around by her jaw; a white line that could've been added in when the person added this section of hair.
We personally think that it is official as the quality of the model used is really good, and we believe that some old fansites back the theory (See Link 0 and Link 4 below), however we don't have a reason as to why it would've disappeared like it had. Maybe it was too suggestive and that it conflicted with the cease and desists of 'Nude Raider' content that Eidos was handing out to fansites promoting nude Laras; Eidos couldn't be seen as being contradictory to their lawsuits, so it was removed. Maybe, the speed in which it disappeared is also why there are few instances of this render being shown and why it isn't available in normal sizes at the time. We also wonder if this image was repurposed into other Lara renders as she poses very similar in other renders.
Here are some fors and againsts that we've been mulling over as we tried to work out the legitimacy of the image.
These are just a handful of points that we've come up with. It would be fantastic to be able to find the original source or the original artist so that we can know for sure, but somehow, I don't think either will be possible. With the current rediscoveries in the past month or so, who knows, this could be another.
Link 0 - 100+ Desktop Pictures of Lara Croft
Link 1 - Driber's Homepage
Link 2 - Lara in Motion
Link 3 - Visions of Lara Croft
http://web.archive.org/web/19991013070950/http://volc.ctimes.net/pg17.html - render #889
Link 4 - Unofficial Tomb Raider Gallery
Link 5 - Lara's World Wallpaper Archives - Group 03
Other Instances of This Image:
Lara Croft Picture Page
http://web.archive.org/web/20010618075049/http://home.wanadoo.nl/broek/gallery09.htm# - Seems to sort renders in games release
http://web.archive.org/web/20030816193219/http://www.planetlara.com/pic_page_32.asp - Used alongside other official renders, TR2 & TR3 eras
The Croft TImes
So it turns out that there were 8 renders specifically created for the 1999 story that was released to supplement The Times Exclusive level.
There was always that one render, of Lara stood in a library looking through a book, that has been synonymous with the Times level, but since we bought the newspaper that featured episode #7 of the 'Down Among the Dead' story, we had this theory that some others were made for it too. We had touched upon this in a post we made on our Virtual Lara Tumblr back in February 2021. The said issue then confirmed that the image of Lara stuck in a spider web in an Egyptian setting depicted the story being told. For many years before, people, including us, assumed that the render was created for TR4 and somehow represented the game. No one knew who the man in it was but we could only loosely guess that it was Werner Von Croy, somehow, even though you could see that it wasn't. However when you read the 'Down Among the Dead' story, you'll learn that it is in fact a character called Alvin Blackmore.
Our theory was also based on the fact that in the Tomb Raider Style Guide, the set of renders that are numbered TR5001-TR5009 (although we aren't sure where render #TR5007 comes in) were labelled under the Tomb Raider Chronicles set of renders, even though they thematically don't belong to Chronicles. When we acquired the physical Style Guide, we could seen the dates of the renders on the disks; they all date to November-December 1999 - around the time when the story was printed, and what's more, they pre-date Chronicles. When building our website, this was enough proof for us to create a Renders page with these images on, even though we had only seen 2 episodes.
This theory was proved correct when UroshUchiha accessed the Times digital archive and found out the remaining episodes. From this, fans can now understand what the renders are showing, and we can now see where and in which order the other renders were used. For us, this is another Tomb Raider mystery solved!