Vermeer’s perspective on the Delft investigation


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  • Students and physicists traveled to the Netherlands to discover a masterpiece by Vermeer.
  • The Dutch Golden Age has attracted the attention of researchers, even in the scientific field, for centuries.
  • The group used measurements, time clues, and astronomical data to determine the date of the painting.

    Leading sky experts led by an astronomer from Texas State University have come together to analyze the precise time at which a masterpiece was painted. The group is made up of retired and emeritus professors and current students, and they traveled to Delft in the Netherlands for an essential mission: to precisely date one of Johannes “Jan” Vermeer’s most beloved paintings.

    Vermeer is one of the Dutch masters, a group of artists who spent the 17th century arousing the interest of the Western world in their specific style of painting. Vermeer is best known for his sense of color and light, as in his most famous painting, a girl with an earring.(Where and how he positions his model near an open window is part of the plot of the book and film of the same name.)

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    “Nowhere is this technical precision more evident than in his masterpiece, View of Delft, a vibrant cityscape that has captivated viewers for centuries, ”Texas State University said in a statement. “Because few details of Vermeer’s life survive to this day, little is known when View of Delft has been painted.”

    In an article in the new issue of Sky & Telescope, the group describes their questions and the journey and the science that helped solve it. It started with the existing body of knowledge.

    The mauritshuis museum is preparing for the official opening after renovation
    Visitors watch View of Delft in the Vermeer Room of the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, the Netherlands.

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    “Art historians have long assumed that Vermeer painted it in the late spring or early summer of 1660. Based on the lighting, researchers have come up with a wide variety of times of the day. day: morning, noon, afternoon and sunset were all mentioned. TSU said in the statement.

    “Most print sources claimed that the light from the image was coming from the west in Vermeer’s painting, while others were certain that the sun was high above their heads. Olson and his students said consulted maps of Delft and realized that the view was facing north.This meant that the light would come from the southeast, making the painting a morning scene, as some previous authors have claimed.

    From there, the details become wonderfully delicate, starting with an unusual turn in the painting. “The octagonal tower has a stone column protruding from each of the eight corners. In the table, the column in the center almost shades, but not quite, the left column, ”the statement explained.

    A clock in the painting represents an earlier style of clock with a single hand, which changes the time at which it is displayed. And the clock tower has an empty place where, finally, some bells were installed in 1660.

    mauritshuis, the hague, the netherlands

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    Armed with this knowledge and observational data, and boosted by numerous triangulations using Google Earth and good old-fashioned measurements, the researchers brought in their powerful astronomical tools for the latter part of the work. . From the declaration:

    “Using data collected during their research, the team from the State of Texas used astronomical software to calculate the position of the sun in the sky at 8 a.m. local average time in Delft in order to produce the shadows observed on the Nieuwe Kerk tower. The software returned only two possible date ranges: April 6-8 and September 3-4. ”

    We have now reached a final conclusion worthy of a Sherlock holmes tale. The team knew that the climate in the far north would not have leaves on the trees in April, and there are leaves in the painting. This means that the September date range is the only viable possibility. Researchers concluded that the painting was completed no later than September 1659.

    Vermeer was born in October 1632 and would have been only 36 at the very end of the date range, including September 1659. His large paintings could take years even after capturing the initial likeness, but the team at Texas is confident he peeked out the critical window on or before that date.

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