June 19, 2008
. . . my work, which I’ve done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (Letter of June 12, 1716)
He was a friend of the painter Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), and the microscope may have inspired Dutch artists of the period in their endeavors to reproduce the surface textures of cloth, insects, fur, feathers, glass, and mirrors.
Did Antonie van Leeuwenhoek model for Vermeer’s paintings?
The Geographer (detail)
The Astronomer (detail)
Portrait of Leeuwenhoek(detail) by J. Verkolje
Many critics have asked if the young men who appear in The Geographer and The Astronomer (which seem to be the same man) represent Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. A detail of J. Verkolje’s portrait (above 3rd picture) of the scientist dates 1668 when he was 54 years of age. If Van Leeuwenhoek did indeed pose in Vermeer’s paintings, he would have done so when he was approximately 32 seeing that the two paintings are generally dated near 1668.
Arthur Wheelock, curator of Northern Painting in the Washington National Gallery and noted Vermeer expert, believes that not only did Van Leeuwenhoek sit for Vermeer’s two paintings but that they may have even been commissioned by the scientist himself. On the other hand, John Michael Montias, noted Vermeer expert and author of Vermeer and his Milieu, sees no particular resemblance between “the elegant, distinguished-looking scholars portrayed in The Astronomer and The Geographer and the course- featured Van Leeuwenhoek.” In Verkolje’s portrait, Van Leeuwenhoek has a nose similar to Vermeer’s man but his face seems broader although this discrepancy could be explained by the difference in age.
June 19, 2008
Johannes Vermeer is one of the best known artists from the Dutch Golden Age. His name is inextricably linked with Delft, the city in which he was born in 1632 and where he lived and worked all his life. His paintings found their way all over the world; only seven of his works still remain in Dutch museums.
Famed for his mastery of light, there is more to Vermeer than meets the eye. As a true Delftenaar he made full use of the technology available to him in the form of the camera obscura or so called ‘goggle box’. Fellow Delftenaar Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a friend of Vermeer’s and had a very large influence on him through his knowledge on lenses and their use in this technique. Through the eyes of Vermeer it can be seen an interesting and beautiful picture of the life and history of the city.
Koos de Wilt studied law and history of art. He has worked in law and publicity, and having founded several publishing companies and having written a number of books, he now makes films and publishes in newspapers and periodicals. He is currently the director of the Vermeer Centre in Delft.
Although there are a number of excellent studies which explore particular aspects of Vermeer’s painting techniques and materials, there still exists no single work which describe in detail Vermeer’s painting procedures. The difficulty of describing Vermeer’s painting methods is further complicated by the fact that the artist experimented with different techniques throughout his career.
- Early works
In Vermeer’s early works, thickly applied impasto paint is characteristic. This evident paint build-up combined with a relative freedom of brushwork create uneven and granular effects. The artist probably wished to accentuate the material presence of his subjects although repeated overpainting may at times be considered evidence of technical uncertainty. Tones tend to be rather muted and in more than one painting, such as the Maid Asleep, they create an overall sullen effect. In Vermeer’s early interiors, which immediately followed the mythological and religious themes, impasto is used more selectively and the complicated admixtures of pigments found in preceding works are less frequent. The brilliant tones needed to suggest the intensity of incoming daylight, which had become one of his principle artistic preoccupations, are generally composed of two or three pigments. In this early phase Vermeer’s contours tend to be very sharp, sometimes to the point of brittleness.
- Late works
In his last years of artistic activity Vermeer had acquired an extremely high degree of control of every facet of painting technique. Outline had become again distinct, but paint is applied with the utmost economy and his brushwork often calligraphic, at times borders on the virtuoso. A sense of brittleness is adverted in the modeling of his sitters. In some areas paint has been applied so thinly that the underlying ground can easily be seen. This fact has even lead some scholars to believe some of the paintings were not completely finished.
June 3, 2008
In this evocative mythological painting, Diana sits with her companions near the edge of a dark and impenetrable forest. As evening falls she gazes unseeingly into the distance while one of her companions kneels before her, attending to her feet. The quiet and somber mood is unusual for depictions of this fleet-footed goddess, who, when not shown hunting with bow and arrow is often bathing with her nymphs splashing water upon Actaeon to transform him into a deer, or confronting the pregnant Callisto.
Vermeer has given Diana only one attribute, the crescent moon, that identifies her as goddess of the night. This role, symbolically associated with death, is central to Vermeer’s artistic intention other pictorial elements reinforcing this theme are the thistle and geranium, symbols of earthIy sorrow, and foot-washing, which in Christian traditions alludes to purification, humility, and approaching death. Probably because of this thematic connection Verrmeer adapted the pose of Diana from Rembrandt’s Bathsheba (below right), 1654, where the Old Testament heroine sits contemplating the weighty implications of David’s letter. Vermeer may have conceived his painting in response to a personal loss.
resource: Wheelock Jr., Arthur. Vermeer, The Complete Works. 1997
March 13, 2008
For our ESP class we have to write Vermeer’s works. So in our first class, each of us had to choose one of his paintings. We were free to choose the one we liked most. Then we had to find as much informartion as we could about our painting and summarize or even translate it if it was in another language. The aim of this researching is to collect all the works in a little book.