Vermeer-related study

September 1st, 2013

From Perception to Paint: the practical use of the Camera Obscura in the time of Vermeer
Jane Jelley
in Art and Perception
July 2013

janejelly

There has been much debate as to whether Vermeer himself would have used any kind of optical aid in the execution of his paintings. The paintings themselves appear to show optical effects and distortions, seen only through a lens and not with the naked eye. Was Vermeer just influenced by the view through a camera, or did he transfer the projected images directly to his paintings?

Jane Jelly’s experiment shows a method that would have made transfers from a projection to a canvas a practical possibility, using readily available materials and contemporary technology. This technique not only solves the problems of the reversals of camera obscura images, but significantly, the resultant transfers from the lens show striking resonances with Vermeer’s own underpainting, revealed by scientific analysis. This research also provides some answers about the use of particular materials in the 17th-century studio.

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