Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the Natural Philosophers : The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery

Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the Natural Philosophers : The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery

Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the Natural Philosophers : The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery

Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the Natural Philosophers : The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery

Synopsis

"In this interdisciplinary study drawing on the history of art and the history of science, Robert D. Huerta explores the conceptual intersections in the work of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and the microscopist Antony van Leeuwenhoek, within the broader relationships between painting and science during the seventeenth century. In a widely researched and deeply considered book, Huerta argues that Vermeer's use of the camera obscura and other instrumental adjuncts parallels van Leeuwenhoek's pursuit of the "optical way," and embodies a profound philosophical connection between these investigators. Analyzing Vermeer's work, Huerta shows that the artist's choices were the result of his personal response to contemporary scientific discoveries, and the work of men such as van Leeuwenhoek, Christiaan Huygens, and Galileo Galilei. Furthermore, Huerta compares Vermeer's program of informed observation to the methods used by van Leeuwenhoek and other scientists to accumulate and analyze instrument-mediated knowledge. This approach enabled Vermeer to confront the same issues as natural philosophers regarding the interpretation of unfamiliar images presented by instrumental systems." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book began as an intellectual exercise regarding Vermeer's relationship to optics, and more generally, to the science of his time. That exercise became a short composition, which in extended turn, evolved into this publication. I have kept in mind Gowing's admonition regarding the “optical way” as well as Schwarz's recommendation to include the history of science in any investigation concerning artists during the early modern period. Staying the course they suggested has led me along an exciting path of discovery.

Any inquiry into the discipline of history is based, to a greater or lesser extent, upon the labor of previous authors. A synthetic effort such as mine owes a particular debt to those historians who took their turn in cultivating this field. I hope that I have done justice to my small parcel. More specifically, I thank Harold J. Cook, who early on generously provided encouragement and direction to a fledgling writer. I also gratefully acknowledge Albert Van Helden, who read and commented on an early version of chapter 6. During the conduct of my research, David C. Lindberg, James S. Ackerman, and Silvio A. Bedini provided me with hard to find articles. I am obliged to them and to Edward G. Ruestow, who corresponded with me regarding his then forthcoming book The Microscope in the Dutch Republic. Philip Steadman also corresponded with me about Vermeer and the camera obscura and made numerous careful and perceptive observations.

In addition, I greatly appreciate the heroic effort of Bucknell's reader, who made both stylistic and substantive recommendations that improved my manuscript immeasurably. Any errors or shortcomings in the final product are, of course, my responsibility. I also acknowledge and thank Greg Clingham, the director of Bucknell University Press, who patiently shepherded this book through the publication process. The staff at Associated University Presses performed their tasks in a professional and efficient manner and I thank them for doing so. Finally, I owe profound thanks to my wife, Lee Ann Reed, who read, discussed, and critiqued this work as it took shape and whose good counsel and keen intellect help make what is possible, real.

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