The ‘master of light’ Johannes Vermeer used a camera to paint his works of art

The ‘master of light’ Johannes Vermeer used a camera to paint his works of art

The ‘master of light’ Johannes Vermeer used a camera to paint his works of art

Vermeer may have achieved his hyperreal scenes through the use of a camera obscura.

Vermeer may have achieved his hyperreal scenes through the use of a camera obscura.

“Master of light” Johannes Vermeer used a precursor to the camera to paint his artwork, new research suggests.

Known for paintings including Girl with a Pearl Earring, it has been speculated that the Dutch artist achieved his hyper-realistic scenes through the use of a camera obscura, a box that would project images that could then be faithfully traced.

Vermeer most likely owned such a device, according to research, which suggests the 17th-century painter became the “Master of Light” with the help of technology.

New evidence suggests that a Jesuit priest and artist living in the Dutch city of Delft owned a camera obscura, and that after his death in 1656 this object may have passed to his neighbor, Vermeer.

“It is precisely in this year that the characteristics of camera projections appear for the first time in his (Vermeer’s) paintings,” art expert Gregor JM Weber has argued in his new biography of the painter.

The small hole in the camera obscura allowed light from a scene to pass through and be projected against an internal surface - Frans Sellies

The small hole in the camera obscura allowed light from a scene to pass through and be projected against an internal surface – Frans Sellies

Such a camera obscura (Latin for darkroom) in Vermeer’s time would have been a box with a small hole in one side, which would have allowed light from a scene to pass through and be projected against an internal surface with its perspective and colors intact. , although in reverse.

An angled mirror could then be used to reflect this image onto a sheet of paper, allowing the artist to trace around and copy the colors to achieve an extremely accurate image, without having to paint entirely by eye.

A Jesuit priest and painter named Isaac van der Mye created an image of Saint Apollonia using a camera obscura.

A Jesuit priest and painter named Isaac van der Mye created an image of Saint Apollonia using a camera obscura.

Weber’s investigation discovered that a Jesuit priest and painter who lived in Delft during Vermeer’s lifetime, named Isaac van der Mye, created an image of Saint Apollonia using one of these devices. The artwork appears to have been done on thin tracing paper and reveals signs of having been done using a reflected light source rather than a completely natural light source.

The head of fine arts at the national Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands, Mr. Weber, claims this is “clear evidence that a box camera existed and was used for artistic purposes in the immediate vicinity of Vermeer.”

The art expert argued in his book Johannes Vermeer. Faith, light and reflection that the painter had strong ties to the Jesuit community and therefore would have been in contact with Van der Mye and familiar with this technology.

The blurry close-up of the lacemaker suggests that the image may have passed through some type of lens.

The blurry close-up of the lacemaker suggests that the image may have passed through some type of lens.

He has also argued that Vermeer’s style shifts to a noticeably more “photographic” style, capturing extremely subtle variations in light, precisely after Van der Mye’s death in 1656, suggesting that the camera obscura may have been bequeathed to him. .

Mr. Weber has stated that this was a natural fit, as “Vermeer had already shown an extraordinary sense for nuances of light and colour…camera obscura pictures must therefore have interested him especially “.

The theory seems to confirm speculation that Vermeer used this type of device to create some of his works, including the 1670 The Lacemaker, whose blurry close-up suggests the image may have passed through some kind of lens.

Vermeer achieved only moderate success during his lifetime (1632 to 1675), and his limited artistic output seems to depict scenes set in just a few rooms in his hometown of Delft, but these few paintings would lead to a reappraisal in the 19th century. century that secured his place as one of the great Dutch masters.

Stolen in 1990 and valued at £166 million, Vermeer’s concert is the most expensive missing piece of art, and the painter was played by Colin Firth in the 2003 film Girl with a Pearl Earring, which showed him using a camera. dark.

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