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Journal for Geometry and Graphics 14 (2010), No. 2, 187--202
Copyright Heldermann Verlag 2010

The Hidden Geometry in Vermeer's 'The Art of Painting'

Gerhard Gutruf
Hamburgerstr. 11/26, 1050 Vienna, Austria

Hellmuth Stachel
Inst. of Discrete Mathematics and Geometry, University of Technology, Wiedner Hauptstr. 8--10/104, 1040 Vienna, Austria

This computer-aided analysis of the geometry in Vermeer's main work 'The Art of Painting' has two objectives: On the one hand we want to disclose some of Vermeer's hidden laws of composition. On the other hand we look for arguments contra Ph. Steadman's theory that a camera obscura was used for producing a geometrically correct perspective. Therefore an analytic reconstruction of the perspective was carried out and explained, under which assumptions a reconstruction of the displayed objects is possible. To avoid any misunderstanding, the reason for exposing geometrical flaws in the perspective is not pedantically doctrinaire but shall demonstrate that for Vermeer the laws of composition and artistic intuition stand much higher than just copying a camera-obscura depiction.

Keywords: Vermeer, perspective, reconstruction, camera obscura.

MSC: 51N05

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