Machinedesign 8049 Vermeer Engineer 1 0

Movie shows how Vermeer used engineering to paint perfection

July 14, 2014
A movie is by inventor Tim Jenison and his friend Penn Jillette (the Vegas magician) documents eight years of work to recreate art by 17th-Century artist Johannes Vermeer. The art was most likely created through the use of a camera obscura.
Girl with a Pearl Earring. All 35 Vermeers known to exist are painted in this level of detail.

Recently at Cleveland Museum of Art, I bumped into an old Penton Media colleague, Juan Quirarte.  Sidenote here: If you ever visit Cleveland, prioritize a trip to the city's art museum over the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's free but world-class, and even folks that don't like fine art will love the armor-and-weapons collection.

Anyway, Juan had just left the museum's theater, showing Tim's Vermeer — a movie he told us engineers might like.  He's right: I loved it and you will, too.

The movie is by inventor Tim Jenison and his friend Penn Jillette (the Vegas magician) who directs. It shows how Jenison works more than eight years to accurately recreate the art of 17th-Century Dutch Johannes Vermeer, the painter of such highly realistic Masters as Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Concert.
Not only that, but Jenison uses all the tech-based techniques Vermeer used — with heavy reliance on a camera obscura.

Cameras obscura are totally enclosed thin-walled boxes with holes on opposing walls. Light travels in straight lines from the scene being painted through a small hole, cross, and project through the opposing hole as an upside-down image on any surface put in front of it.

With this device, Vermeer captured scenes with the shimmer and accuracy of a snapshot ... 150 years before photography.

In fact, other researchers agree that Vermeer probably used optics during painting. In 2001, architect Philip Steadman published Vermeer’s Camera, detailing the evidence that the artist's work relied on images through a camera obscura. Steadman argues that Vermeer also used a technique called reverse perspective, a permutation on this type of painting.

True to the typical artist's fate, Vermeer and his engineering-based work only became famous 200 years after his death.

Tim's Vermeer is in arthouse theaters now, or can be streamed from several online services.

Sponsored Recommendations

MOVI-C Unleashed: Your One-Stop Shop for Automation Tasks

April 17, 2024
Discover the versatility of SEW-EURODRIVE's MOVI-C modular automation system, designed to streamline motion control challenges across diverse applications.

The Power of Automation Made Easy

April 17, 2024
Automation Made Easy is more than a slogan; it signifies a shift towards smarter, more efficient operations where technology takes on the heavy lifting.

Lubricants: Unlocking Peak Performance in your Gearmotor

April 17, 2024
Understanding the role of lubricants, how to select them, and the importance of maintenance can significantly impact your gearmotor's performance and lifespan.

From concept to consumption: Optimizing success in food and beverage

April 9, 2024
Identifying opportunities and solutions for plant floor optimization has never been easier. Download our visual guide to quickly and efficiently pinpoint areas for operational...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!