SciAm: Great article on Jan van Eyck painting

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KenM

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Very interesting article in Scientific American December 2004 issue on jan van Eyck's painting of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife.

The issue was how the painting was created - it was of the first 'lifelike' paintings at the beginning of the Renaissance. It was thought that the painting was done using a primative camera obscura. The article in the magzine discusses this theory.

Fascinating stuff. Really.
 

Huib

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About a year ago there was a documentary broadcasted here in the Netherlands that showed how probably many renaissance painter used a camera obsura to create their masterpieces: 'evidence' as artifacts in paintings due to refocussing (a hand that doesn't fit quite right to the arm), looming of shapes, left-right mix-up when a mirror was used (too many lefthanded people in the painting), fine/complicated details that 'escaped' the painters in earlier years but are present now.

One can never be shure, but it was very convincing.

Huib
 

rbarker

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I understand that ObscuraShop was a big seller at all the pigment shops in those days. :wink:
 

c6h6o3

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bjorke said:
You need to look at David Hockney's book "Secret Knowledge"
That book is one of the most important pieces of art history ever written. It is truly a monumental achievement which every serious photographer should read carefully.
 
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KenM

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c6h6o3 said:
That book is one of the most important pieces of art history ever written. It is truly a monumental achievement which every serious photographer should read carefully.

The article in SciAm debunks this book using proper scientific methods. Of course, I haven't read the book in question, but this is what the article trys to do. Is it successful? Based solely on the article, yes, if you can trust the statements in the article.

The fact that at 2m glass blown sphere would have been required to create a concave mirror of the right focal length pretty much shows that the technique discussed in the book was impossible - at that time. Other things, such as the vanishing lines on the chandelier do not converge; had they been drawn by tracing an image reflected by mirrors, they would have.

Read the article. It's interesting.
 

bjorke

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I have not read the article, but who is to say that you needed a GLASS mirror? Metal or even bone or even WOOD would have been adequate. Also the optical construction may not have been made directly onto the final canvas, but onto a sketch-sized page for later expansion -- which would permit a far smaller optic.

Thinking a mirror needs to be glass, simply because modern mirrors are glass, is flawed thinking. A bit like looking at the pyramids and realizing that the Egyptians must have needed some REALLY BIG helicopters to build those things.
 
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