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(Vanity Fair)   Compelling evidence that Vermeer used a complicated optical device to work his magic on the canvas   (vanityfair.com) divider line 39
    More: Interesting, Compelling Evidence, Vermeer, Penn Jillette, Penn & Teller, counterarguments  
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7215 clicks; posted to Geek » on 30 Nov 2013 at 10:38 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



39 Comments   (+0 »)
   
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest
 
2013-11-30 07:00:12 PM  
I'd like this to be true, if only because I can't draw anything without tracing it.  It gives hope to us wannabe artists without any talent.
 
2013-11-30 07:45:55 PM  
I never thought this was in question.
 
2013-11-30 09:17:23 PM  

Lsherm: I'd like this to be true, if only because I can't draw anything without tracing it.  It gives hope to us wannabe artists without any talent.


And I just learned that Greg Land has a Fark account.
 
2013-11-30 10:25:45 PM  

optikeye: I never thought this was in question.


in the very least, this is old news. I own a book on this topic. 5-10 years old ...
 
2013-11-30 10:26:11 PM  
This article is about as scientific as a mythbusters episode.  There's literally no quotes or opinions in this article from anyone who actually knows anything about art.  Even the guy who built the machine needed his daughter to show him basic painting techniques.

Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced?
 
2013-11-30 10:33:02 PM  

dookdookdook: Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced?


No you really couldn't. And it hasnt been traced it was painted with a brush. And although this guy isnt a trained artist he is a farking genius that taught himself to read Dutch and built his own helicopter. I dont think the average person would get the same results - as crude as they are.
 
2013-11-30 10:54:53 PM  
quickdraw: No you really couldn't. And it hasnt been traced it was painted with a brush.

You can still trace things with a brush...

If the painting were just a direct copy of a projected real life image, the colors and lighting should behave more regularly than they would if someone was doing it by eye.  I can't believe you couldn't analyze that somehow.

And although this guy isnt a trained artist he is a farking genius that taught himself to read Dutch and built his own helicopter. I dont think the average person would get the same results

Not saying he isn't smart, but it really seems like all he did once he figured out how to build his thingee was to match the colors and fill out the image on the canvas.  That doesn't really qualify you as an art expert.

Just saying I'd love to hear an objective opinion on the matter from someone who actually knows what they're talking about.  Penn Jillette might be reasonably objective, but he's not exactly an authority on this subject.
 
2013-11-30 10:55:34 PM  

quickdraw: dookdookdook: Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced? No you really couldn't. And it hasnt been traced it was painted with a brush. And although this guy isnt a trained artist he is a farking genius that taught himself to read Dutch and built his own helicopter. I dont think the average person would get the same results - as crude as they are.


>Vermeer sketched his subject on the canvas prior applying paint as most artist did back then.
www.essentialvermeer.com
 
2013-11-30 11:15:37 PM  
Saw this doc in the theater a couple of months ago.  Really enjoyed it.  Good Q&A afterward with Penn, Teller and Jenison.
 
2013-11-30 11:23:23 PM  

namatad: optikeye: I never thought this was in question.

in the very least, this is old news. I own a book on this topic. 5-10 years old ...


Know how I know you didn't read the aericle? The theory that Vermeer used a camera obscura is about 100 years old; this article explains that it was more likely mirrors and lenses. A guy designed said apparatus and reproduced one of Vermeer's paintings with it and no artistic skill at all.
 
2013-11-30 11:25:42 PM  

dookdookdook: the colors and lighting should behave more regularly than they would if someone was doing it by eye.


Read the article, OK? It explains that the subtle changes in value are imperceptible because of how the brain compensates for light and darkness.
 
2013-11-30 11:48:36 PM  

dookdookdook: This article is about as scientific as a mythbusters episode.  There's literally no quotes or opinions in this article from anyone who actually knows anything about art.  Even the guy who built the machine needed his daughter to show him basic painting techniques.

Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced?


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670030260

I read about this 12 years ago.
And it is an amazing book with details on HOW it was all done.
 
2013-12-01 12:15:30 AM  

quickdraw: dookdookdook: Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced?

No you really couldn't. And it hasnt been traced it was painted with a brush. And although this guy isnt a trained artist he is a farking genius that taught himself to read Dutch and built his own helicopter. I dont think the average person would get the same results - as crude as they are.


He built a harpsichord just so he could reproduce the room in the painting.
A harpsichord.
I made a bowl of cereal today.
 
2013-12-01 12:31:06 AM  
He used Camera obscura techniques and I didn't read the article or comments because I am drunk and I don't care.
 
2013-12-01 12:48:25 AM  

namatad: And it is an amazing book with details on HOW it was all done.


Hockney thought Vermeer used a camera obscura, turns out he apparently didn't.
 
2013-12-01 01:00:46 AM  

Bastard Toadflax: Read the article, OK? It explains that the subtle changes in value are imperceptible because of how the brain compensates for light and darkness.


Way to miss the point.  I'm saying if this device allows someone to be much more accurate with color matching and drawing than someone not using it, you could measure the accuracy of the colors and shading in the painting by comparing it to, say, a model of the room, and then compare Vermeer's accuracy to that of other artists who painted in the same style.  If Vermeer was considerably more accurate than other artists painting in the same style, then it would support the theory that he was using special tools like this.

I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong, all I'm looking for is an expert opinion from a scientist (or even an actual artist) and not an engineer and a TV magician, because there's nothing like that in TFA.

/why am I talking to you idiots when I could just be googling anyway?
 
2013-12-01 01:25:41 AM  
It's still art, even if projection was used.

I like Penn Jillette's explanation of this.

How the image was created is not as important as what is conveyed.. how it was composed.

We accept that lots of photography is art. Just taking a picture, or even taking a technically "tuned" image, is not enough to make it art; Composition, subject matter, and how the viewer reacts to the work makes it art. If Vermeer used a technique that was akin to photography (though it still required great skill), to create images that evoke a reaction, why is it diminished in any way?

There were plenty of artists through the ages who were technically very skilled - and yet their works stand merely as snapshots of people or places, rather than works of great art. It works both ways.
 
2013-12-01 01:50:18 AM  

dookdookdook: Bastard Toadflax: Read the article, OK? It explains that the subtle changes in value are imperceptible because of how the brain compensates for light and darkness.

Way to miss the point.  I'm saying if this device allows someone to be much more accurate with color matching and drawing than someone not using it, you could measure the accuracy of the colors and shading in the painting by comparing it to, say, a model of the room, and then compare Vermeer's accuracy to that of other artists who painted in the same style.  If Vermeer was considerably more accurate than other artists painting in the same style, then it would support the theory that he was using special tools like this.

I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong, all I'm looking for is an expert opinion from a scientist (or even an actual artist) and not an engineer and a TV magician, because there's nothing like that in TFA.

/why am I talking to you idiots when I could just be googling anyway?


You'd have to have the original room to compare to. A model couldn't tell you what the original colors actually were, because you'd be building the model from the painting.

Even if you had that, you'd then need some way to characterize the difference between paintings done with a camera technique and those done without, which means you'd need to see the original settings of all those too. You might be able to create a data set like that with a modern painter, but there's no guarantee that would be a good model for Vermeer's work. Different people perceive color differently.

tldr: In theory such an analysis might be possible, but the data needed to do it isn't there.
 
2013-12-01 01:55:56 AM  
imageshack.us
 
2013-12-01 02:18:51 AM  
Tracer! You're just a tracer!
 
2013-12-01 02:32:17 AM  
dookdookdook:  I'm saying if this device allows someone to be much more accurate with color matching and drawing than someone not using it, you could measure the accuracy of the colors and shading in the painting by comparing it to, say, a model of the room, and then compare Vermeer's accuracy to that of other artists who painted in the same style.  If Vermeer was considerably more accurate than other artists painting in the same style, then it would support the theory that he was using special tools like this.

I'm not saying anyone's right or wrong, all I'm looking for is an expert opinion from a scientist (or even an actual artist) and not an engineer and a TV magician, because there's nothing like that in TFA.

/why am I talking to you idiots when I could just be googling anyway?


He's not an average engineer, he made his millions designing video production and post-production equipment. So he's not an expert on art, but he is an expert on lighting behavior and patterns, and he correctly identified that the lighting looked different because he was capturing those subtle differences that our brains alone wouldn't perceive. He did in fact do a digital deconstruction of one of the paintings and saw the light-to-dark ratio matched the results given by a lens. FTFA: "he did a computer analysis of a high-resolution scan of a Vermeer interior, and discovered "an exponential relationship in the light on the white wall." ... According to Jenison, the painting he digitally deconstructed shows just such a diminution from light to dark."

It also says in TFA that he went back and forth to Delft several times, saw the house in question, built a replica of the room along the same sun-exposure-angle, even built a facade for outside to block the light appropriately. He went and got the farking Queen to let him gawk at the actual original painting, not just the reproductions, and noted the hue shift (the original is bluer, and more muted) as well as the additional detail that the reproductions didn't show.

So a visual imaging expert recognized that the lighting values followed a distinct pattern, tested it in a digital simulation, had an idea about how a Renaissance-era painter might have accomplished it, then set about testing it in the most accurate way he could manage using statistics and methods from the original site/region/period. Really, that he could make such a faithful representation without being a painter only reinforces that his mirror/lens idea has merit.

I'm not sure what else you want, but everything you asked for was right there in TFA.

/unless i missed the point too, which is completely possible
/it's late
 
2013-12-01 03:17:50 AM  
It doesn't surprise me that this guy, Tim Jenison, who has "made a fortune inventing hardware and software for video production and post-production" looks at Vermeer's paintings and thinks that they must have been created with the aid of a camera obscura or some device. People bring their own backgrounds and experiences along when they view art.

It seems highly unlikely to me that Vermeer used a "device" to create his works of art, or at least not to such an extent as Jenison did to create his reproduction. First, there is no contemporary account of Vermeer using such a device and I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to keep something like that a secret. People saw Vermeer painting. Vermeer painted people.
Second, a device can raise your ability a step but then it would plateau, there wouldn't be steady improvement over time, unless you imagine Vermeer as a relentless tinkerer, improving his device over the course of his lifetime, undetected and unreported.
Third, it doesn't account for his remarkable composition skills and the arresting quality of his paintings. There should be evidence of failed attempts, realistic looking but badly composed images, practice attempts with the device. They don't exist.
I don't really buy it. I wouldn't be surprised if he used mirrors and lenses, but they would have been tools to increase the genius quality of his artistic ability, not a trick or a prop. Penn Jillette might find the idea appealing, but it's not a convincing demonstration.
 
2013-12-01 06:19:22 AM  
I am usually pretty good with thinking visually, mechanically, and in three dimensions.

I cannot figure out what the fark sort of apparatus is being described in the full article. Something about the mirror losing its edge when the color gradient is right? What? I'm tired.
 
2013-12-01 06:37:20 AM  

Farty McPooPants: quickdraw: dookdookdook: Anyway, couldn't you run some kind of computer analysis on the colors and drawing from a real Vermeer to test pretty definitively if it was done by hand or traced?

No you really couldn't. And it hasnt been traced it was painted with a brush. And although this guy isnt a trained artist he is a farking genius that taught himself to read Dutch and built his own helicopter. I dont think the average person would get the same results - as crude as they are.

He built a harpsichord just so he could reproduce the room in the painting.
A harpsichord.
I made a bowl of cereal today.


No, you didn't actually - and if you had, it would have been impressive.
 
2013-12-01 07:10:36 AM  
What using an optical device on Vermeer might look like:

i1.ytimg.com
 
2013-12-01 07:38:20 AM  
As an artist this raises a lot of questions in my mind about art and the tools we artists use to create it. Very cool article about a very interesting subject. :D
 
2013-12-01 08:25:24 AM  

Bandito King: I am usually pretty good with thinking visually, mechanically, and in three dimensions.

I cannot figure out what the fark sort of apparatus is being described in the full article. Something about the mirror losing its edge when the color gradient is right? What? I'm tired.


Stand in a room looking at a blank wall. Hold a mirror so that it's reflecting the wall behind you. If the lighting matches between the wall in front of you and the image in the mirror, the dividing line between the 2 images (the wall and the mirror) will be lost in your vision.
I've seen the same effect in comparison microscopes. when the color or light level between the 2 samples is different, you get a distinct line down the middle of the image. When you correct for the level and color, the line disappears and it's hard to tell where 1 image ends and the the other begins.
 
2013-12-01 08:53:52 AM  

red5ish: It doesn't surprise me that this guy, Tim Jenison, who has "made a fortune inventing hardware and software for video production and post-production" looks at Vermeer's paintings and thinks that they must have been created with the aid of a camera obscura or some device. People bring their own backgrounds and experiences along when they view art.

It seems highly unlikely to me that Vermeer used a "device" to create his works of art, or at least not to such an extent as Jenison did to create his reproduction. First, there is no contemporary account of Vermeer using such a device and I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to keep something like that a secret. People saw Vermeer painting. Vermeer painted people.
Second, a device can raise your ability a step but then it would plateau, there wouldn't be steady improvement over time, unless you imagine Vermeer as a relentless tinkerer, improving his device over the course of his lifetime, undetected and unreported.
Third, it doesn't account for his remarkable composition skills and the arresting quality of his paintings. There should be evidence of failed attempts, realistic looking but badly composed images, practice attempts with the device. They don't exist.
I don't really buy it. I wouldn't be surprised if he used mirrors and lenses, but they would have been tools to increase the genius quality of his artistic ability, not a trick or a prop. Penn Jillette might find the idea appealing, but it's not a convincing demonstration.


He could have used such a device as a medieval color picker tool. Just like the A and B squares below are the same shade but your eyes can't tell. You can use color picker in Paint to see that they indeed are. Using such a device would very likely have been a closely guarded secret.
www.businessballs.com
 
2013-12-01 08:55:40 AM  

The Bananadragon: /unless i missed the point too, which is completely possible
/it's late


No, you're spot on.

The guy for all intents and purposes is a scientist.  The guy you replied to simply has a vague stereotype of what a "real" scientist is, and is basing his opinion on that.  Even Penn, personality flaws aside, is a scientist.  The amount of technical skill and logical thinking that goes into being a "TV magician" (and everything else Penn and Teller do) is no small feat.

red5ish: First, there is no contemporary account of Vermeer using such a device and I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to keep something like that a secret. People saw Vermeer painting. Vermeer painted people.


Someone didn't read the article with the reading comprehension of a rational adult.

red5ish: Second, a device can raise your ability a step but then it would plateau, there wouldn't be steady improvement over time, unless you imagine Vermeer as a relentless tinkerer, improving his device over the course of his lifetime, undetected and unreported.


No, you are still painting by hand, it's not automated like a printer.  There is still brush technique and the ability to mix pigments properly.  There are plenty of reasons that doing it over the course of a career would show technical improvement in those area's.

red5ish: Third, it doesn't account for his remarkable composition skills and the arresting quality of his paintings. There should be evidence of failed attempts, realistic looking but badly composed images, practice attempts with the device. They don't exist.


Typically, things like canvas and paper only survive the passage of time if people purposefully save them.  Film manuscripts to rough drafts.
Typically, anything that's a huge failure is thrown away.  It's even a trope, some writer crumpling up his false starts and tossing them into the trash.

Stephen King to Shakespeare, where are their plot outlines and false starts and the pages they spilled ink on?
How easy will it be to find those things in 400 years?  Very easy, if they were stored well.  Not so much if they went into the trash bin or lined a bird cage.

And, as Penn put it, it's easy to fool people.  A secret won't necessarily have signs that there is a secret.  If there were, it wouldn't be much of a secret now would it?

Seriously, you argue like a creationist, it's so irrational that it's almost impossible to compete(in that person's mind) against with rational information.
 
2013-12-01 09:14:41 AM  
I don't give a fark if he did use some device, he still had to paint the pictures! As an amateur artist/painter, that shiat ain't easy.
 
2013-12-01 09:50:17 AM  
One day, in the bathtub, Jenison had a eureka moment: a mirror. If the lens focused its image onto a small, angled mirror, and the mirror was placed just between the painter's eye and the canvas

Why is that treated as a revelation? This guy didn't make any contribution to the theory. He did perform a remarkable demonstration, but why is anyone claiming his idea is original.

The mirror-lens is pictured on the cover of Hockney's 2001 book.

Also, see Wikipedia: "The camera lucida was patented in 1807 by William Hyde Wollaston. The basic optics were described 200 years earlier by Johannes Kepler"
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2013-12-01 02:08:53 PM  

maniacbastard: He used Camera obscura techniques and I didn't read the article or comments because I am drunk and I don't care.


Nailed it. Pretty common knowledge that many of the classic masters utilized a camera obscura.
 
2013-12-01 04:48:23 PM  

MarkEC: Bandito King: I am usually pretty good with thinking visually, mechanically, and in three dimensions.

I cannot figure out what the fark sort of apparatus is being described in the full article. Something about the mirror losing its edge when the color gradient is right? What? I'm tired.

Stand in a room looking at a blank wall. Hold a mirror so that it's reflecting the wall behind you. If the lighting matches between the wall in front of you and the image in the mirror, the dividing line between the 2 images (the wall and the mirror) will be lost in your vision.
I've seen the same effect in comparison microscopes. when the color or light level between the 2 samples is different, you get a distinct line down the middle of the image. When you correct for the level and color, the line disappears and it's hard to tell where 1 image ends and the the other begins.


Thanks. Don't know why the article couldn't have made that clearer.
 
2013-12-02 03:06:35 AM  

omeganuepsilon: Seriously, you argue like a creationist, it's so irrational that it's almost impossible to compete(in that person's mind) against with rational information.


Obviously you don't know me or trust me enough to do anything other than dismiss me and insult me and my opinion. I suggest you talk to someone you know who really paints well and see what s/he has to say.
Personally I don't buy this theory that an optical device explains the genius of Vermeer.
 
2013-12-02 04:29:19 AM  

MarkEC: Bandito King: I am usually pretty good with thinking visually, mechanically, and in three dimensions.

I cannot figure out what the fark sort of apparatus is being described in the full article. Something about the mirror losing its edge when the color gradient is right? What? I'm tired.

Stand in a room looking at a blank wall. Hold a mirror so that it's reflecting the wall behind you. If the lighting matches between the wall in front of you and the image in the mirror, the dividing line between the 2 images (the wall and the mirror) will be lost in your vision.
I've seen the same effect in comparison microscopes. when the color or light level between the 2 samples is different, you get a distinct line down the middle of the image. When you correct for the level and color, the line disappears and it's hard to tell where 1 image ends and the the other begins.


expatior.com
 
2013-12-02 05:41:54 AM  

red5ish: omeganuepsilon: Seriously, you argue like a creationist, it's so irrational that it's almost impossible to compete(in that person's mind) against with rational information.

Obviously you don't know me or trust me enough to do anything other than dismiss me and insult me and my opinion.


It has nothing to do with mistaken beliefs or mistrust in a stranger, but what you put forth on the internet.  What you posted was, objectively, hogwash.

That you think it's obviously mistrust is also hogwash. That's a deflection via false persecution beliefs, I'm sure it falls under one fallacy or another but I have a feeling that you wouldn't care if i listed it, so I won't.  I very clearly referenced what you were saying.  If you cannot handle that, the onus lies with you, not my shortcomings.

If you don't want to be treated as such, have the foundations of your argument attacked, try not to reason like a shiat for brains and post it to the internet if you cannot handle criticism.

Welcome to Fark, indeed, the internet.
 
2013-12-02 08:40:58 AM  

omeganuepsilon: If you don't want to be treated as such, have the foundations of your argument attacked, try not to reason like a shiat for brains and post it to the internet if you cannot handle criticism.


My posts have been pretty neutral, so I don't understand your aggressive hostility.
Art historians have been speculating about Vermeer using a camera obscura for over a hundred years and there are a lot of strong arguments supporting that view; there is no documentary proof however. When he died - suddenly and in debt -his house and all of his possessions were inventoried when his wife sued to have his debts forgiven. There is no mention of a camera obscura or any other such device in that inventory. I did say, in my Boobies, that I wouldn't be surprised if he used mirrors and lenses as tools.  There is actual proof - from x-rays of his paintings - that Vermeer put pins through some of his canvases at the vanishing point, allowing him to stretch a string from that point to solve perspective problems, a well known technique even at that time.
I find Jenison's device interesting and it's a provocative theory, but again, it's speculation, and in order to accept it one would have to believe that Vermeer first invented it, kept it a secret, and that Jenison re-discovered it four hundred years later. Camera obscura existed in Vermeer's time, Jenison's device was invented in Texas in the 21st century. It's a very weak theory and I don't buy it.
 
2013-12-02 09:36:54 AM  

red5ish: My posts have been pretty neutral,


No. You accused me of mistrust when I clearly talked about actual talking points.  That's not neutral, that's a lie, whether you firmly Believe it or not.

Luckily, we have a direct precedent of this topic that justifies my relevance in religious comments.

Maybe you'd like to get into an argument about the shroud of turin, there's no "documentary proof" for that being manipulated either, so it must be god, right?

Your previous arguments were a compound of several types of logical fallacies(the same types the faithful employ liberally, ergo the apt "you argue like a creationist" comment)  and are subject to scrutiny.

So lets look at some more recent and outright false deployments of your faulty logic.

In order to accept it, one would not have to believe that Vermeer invented it by necessary fact.  People did talk to eachother back then, they even traveled.  Idea's were shared, albiet slower than pre internet, but it still happened. Shocking I know, but it's the truth.  That we do have evidence of.

Keeping a secret from those around you is not as difficult as you seem to desire to indicate.  Keeping a secret from historians isn't much more difficult, just an extension of fooling those around you.  Keeping one from science, however, is a bit more difficult.

You are more akin to someone rationalizing their faith.  It is distinctly possible that he had the contraption and lenses, even if he did not invent them, yet you seem to actively disbelieve(which, with all things being equal, is the same as belief) the very possibility.  That is what you imply when you talk of it, and that is what your supposed arguments support, which are decidedly anti-science, or at least science cheapening, as if the described experiment is of negligable meaning(instead of it factually demonstrating that it is very possible).
 
2013-12-02 11:33:12 AM  
I just got my Neo Lucida last week. Still trying to get the hang of setting it up.
 
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