Archivo mensual: marzo 2010

Vermeer and the camera obscura

Did Vermeer use the Camera Obscura?

According to the BBC History webpage, there is no documentary evidence that Jan Vermeer used the camera obscura in his paintings. Nevertheless, it is commonly believed that he did. Nowadays, the only sources of information we have are his paintings themselves. The camera obscura was the predecessor of the photographic camera and it was used by painters in the 18th century. However, did Vermeer use this technique in the 17th century?

At the end of the 19th century, the American Joseph Pennell was the first to state that Vermeer might have used this device in paintings such us ‘Officer and laughing girl’. The officer and the girl sit very close in the painting however, the size of the officer’s head is twice as bigger as the size of the lady’s. Even though the perspective is correct in the geometrical sense, the problem is that the viewpoint is taken from the officer. This was then called ‘Photographic perspective.’ As explained in the BBC website, nowadays we are familiar to the fact that, in pictures, foreground objects appear bigger than those of the background. This is very unusual for Vermeer’s times, his contemporaries would have probably painted the officer and the girl in their actual size.

Another element that suggests that Vermeer might have used this device are the maps that hang on the walls of his paintings like in ‘Officer and laughing girl.’ The maps of the paintings are exact reproductions of the original. Vermeer might have copied them with the help of the camera obscura although he had other alternatives to do the copies so faithfully. All in all, in the book Vermeer and the camera obscura by Steadman, he concludes that Vermeer did use the device although there are still a portion of Vermeer scholars that do not agree.

Have a look at another extract from the film ‘The girl with a pearl earring’ in which you can see Vermeer’s use of the device.

For more information and bibliography:

‘Vermeer and the camera obscura’ in BBC History in depth. Retrieved 13:05, March 31, 2010 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/vermeer_camera_01.shtml

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Vermeer’s colours

Critics say that there are no more than 20 different pigments in Vermeer’s paintings. However, he seems to use 10 of these pigments constantly. We have to take into account that he lived in Delft in the 17th century. In addition to that, each pigment had to bemade separately and they had dofferetn characteristics in terms of workability or drying time.

  • The Wooden Palette:

    The wooden palette is the one that appears on the photo and represents the seven pigments that Vermeer most used:

1. white lead
2. yellow ochre
3. vermillion
4. red madder
5. green earth
6. raw umber
7. ivory black

To conclude, have a look at this extract taken from the movie ‘The girl with a pearl earring’ in which you can see how Vermeer worked and made his pigments.

Bibliography and more information:

‘Vermeer’s Palette’ in Essential Vermeer (2001-2009). Retrieved 10:27, March 31, 2009 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/palette/palette_vermeer%27_palette.html

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The size of Vermeer paintings


Not everybody knows that Vermeer paintings are indeed very small. If you have just seen them on the Internet or books, you may be amazed to discover their actual size. In this picture you can see the painting ‘Officer and laughing girl’ on scale. Its dimensions are 50.5 cm long by 46 cm wide. Moreover, if you want to see all Vermeer’s paintings in scale just click here.

Resources:

‘Officer and laughing girl’ (2001-2009). In Essential Vermeer. Retrieved 17:24, March 30, 2010 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/officer_and_laughing_girl.html

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Officer and laughing girl

    ‘Officer and laughing girl’ is a painting done by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer between 1655-1670. It represents a laughing woman, with a glass of wine in his hand, who is looking to an officer whose face is not completely seen. Behind them, there is a map of The Netherlands and the light comes through an open window at the right. 

     On the following posts, I’ll be adding more info on specifics parts of the painting, the connection with the artist, his style etc.

Look at the following table for specific details about the painting:

Type:

Oil on canvas

Date:

1655-1670

Dimensions:

50.5 x 46 cm

Location:

Frick Collection, New York.

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English for special purposes

I’m very excited to present a new subject in my last semester as an undergraduate. It’s called English for special purposes and I’m going to be working with a painting by Jan Vermeer. These are the tools I’m going to be using:

So… get ready from some action!!

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