Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing

Eye of the Beholder Johannes Vermeer Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing On a summer day in in the small Dutch city of Delft Antoni van Leeuwenhoek a cloth salesman local bureaucrat and self taught natural philosopher gazed through a tiny lens set into a brass hol

  • Title: Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing
  • Author: Laura J. Snyder
  • ISBN: 9780393352887
  • Page: 390
  • Format: Paperback
  • On a summer day in 1674, in the small Dutch city of Delft, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek a cloth salesman, local bureaucrat, and self taught natural philosopher gazed through a tiny lens set into a brass holder and discovered a never before imagined world of microscopic life At the same time, in a nearby attic, the painter Johannes Vermeer was using another optical device, a camOn a summer day in 1674, in the small Dutch city of Delft, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek a cloth salesman, local bureaucrat, and self taught natural philosopher gazed through a tiny lens set into a brass holder and discovered a never before imagined world of microscopic life At the same time, in a nearby attic, the painter Johannes Vermeer was using another optical device, a camera obscura, to experiment with light and create the most luminous pictures ever beheld See for yourself was the clarion call of the 1600s Scientists peered at nature through microscopes and telescopes, making the discoveries in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and anatomy that ignited the Scientific Revolution Artists investigated nature with lenses, mirrors, and camera obscuras, creating extraordinarily detailed paintings of flowers and insects, and scenes filled with realistic effects of light, shadow, and color By extending the reach of sight the new optical instruments prompted the realization that there is than meets the eye But they also raised questions about how we see and what it means to see In answering these questions, scientists and artists in Delft changed how we perceive the world.In Eye of the Beholder, Laura J Snyder transports us to the streets, inns, and guildhalls of seventeenth century Holland, where artists and scientists gathered, and to their studios and laboratories, where they mixed paints and prepared canvases, ground and polished lenses, examined and dissected insects and other animals, and invented the modern notion of seeing With charm and narrative flair Snyder brings Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek and the men and women around them vividly to life The story of these two geniuses and the transformation they engendered shows us why we see the world and our place within it as we do today.Eye of the Beholder was named A Best Art Book of the Year by Christie s and A Best Read of the Year by New Scientist in 2015.

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    One thought on “Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing”

    1. I don't know why I was under the impression that this was historical fiction. it's not. I really should have added it to my list of books to read sooner. What a rich and wonderful history of both Johannes Vermeer and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. The author serves partly as a time traveling sleuth to understand if there might have been a relationship between Johannes Vermeer and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. To do this, she sifts through and parses research done by other but has conducted quite a bit of nov [...]

    2. An intriguing study of optics--early history and then the imaginative uses made of optics by artist Johannes Vermeer and father of microbiology Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. As a fan of Vermeer's art, I found the explanations--the close study of his paintings in terms of his use of light and the effects on emotion and tone--to be absolutely fascinating. Van Leeuwenhoek's studies were equally intriguing, although I admit I couldn't listen to some of the experiments done by him, his contemporaries, and [...]

    3. One of the things that we sometimes overlook when we tell the stories of the way the world we know came to be is how much of it happened at the same time. We look at this development or that discovery in isolation and often don't consider the other things that may have been going on at the time, perhaps even in almost the same place.Laura Snyder's 2015 Eye of the Beholder bridges one of those gaps by observing the way that different people in the Netherlands in the 17th century began using lense [...]

    4. “Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuvenhoek and the reinvention of seeing,” by Laura J. Snyder (Norton, 2015). Snyder here mines a slightly earlier period and a different country from “The Philosophical Breakfast Club.” Here she argues that in Delft, the Netherlands, during the second half of the 17th century, Leeuvenhoek and Vermeer developed a dramatic new way of seeing the world, through microscopy and painting. The context: the slowly developing understanding that [...]

    5. This is an interesting and scholarly book that deals with the scientific revolution and the cluster of genius of the early 17th century Dutch Republic. It mainly focuses on Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek, who lived across the street from one another and facilitates description of the larger issues. Lens grinding was all the rage and allowed people to extend their senses via telescopes, microscopes and the camera obscura. Using the device revealed unexpected details of the world and in addition to seein [...]

    6. Having read this book I will look at Dutch art of the 1600's in an entirely new way. What better recommendation for reading this book? Snyder writes very carefully to reconstruct the social, economic, and intellegentia's worlds of Delft, the Netherlands, and England (and to a certain extent other countries/polities of Europe. Like Vermeer she is able to describe so that we can see clearly the worlds these two men lived in; a good historian, she carefully distinguishes between what is fact, what [...]

    7. I really like the central thesis that Van Leeuwenhoek and Vermeer were using optical devices to see what previously had been unseen. Van Leeuwenhoek was always looking through microscopes at anything he could lay his hands on and Vermeer used the camera obscura to look at how colours change under different light conditions. Laura Snyder doesn't really know if there was any relationship between the two who lived in the same area of Delft at the same time (although they were born at the same time, [...]

    8. This is an interesting exploration of how the artist Vermeer and the scientist Leuwenhoeck changed our way of seeing. The author is very circumspect over whether they actually knew each other, but it seems they probably did. It dragged in places, but that may be because she was covering similar ground. I like her idea that our brain as well as our eyes have to be trained to see.

    9. I picked up this book because the National Gallery of Art was hosting a Vermeer (and other Dutch masters) exhibit, and I wanted to gain some insight into Vermeer before I went to the exhibit. Sadly, I barely scraped the surface before going to the exhibit. I did, however, watch the Penn & Teller movie, Tim's Vermeer (highly recommend). Although Snyder does not take on Tim Jenison (of Tim's Vermeer) directly, it would appear they have conflicting views on Vermeer's methods. If you want to dip [...]

    10. As a retired biologist who included van Leeuwenhoek in my lectures, I was interested to read Snyder's comparison between van Leeuwenhoek and the artist Vermeer. I appreciated Snyder's presentation of evidence, especially her keeping the book grounded in it. A theme of some current historians is to expand their expositions by conjecture, speculation, and flights of fancy. Snyder wants very badly to show direct connections between Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek, who were contemporaries in Delft, and [...]

    11. Challenging non-fiction (at least for me) about the changes in the European world during Vermeer & van Leeuwenhoek's lives. The author does a nice job of not overstating anything, constantly stating that maybe, it can be thought, perhaps, it is likely, etc. since much of what she writes is conjecture. Not without reason, but there is no direct evidence to support many of her ideas. Did Vermeer & van Leeuwenhoek know each other? How did they each use the camera obscura? But there are defi [...]

    12. Realising that there are only a certain number of books that I can read in my lifetime, I gave up on this one half-way through. The premise is interesting, but the book is a cacophany of words, tossed together like a salad. For many, many pages it hardly made sense. Where was the editor? Snyder meanders from one topic to another, then circles back in on herself. And there is the constant supposition and conjecture when the evidence refuses to give us facts e.g. "IF Leeuwenhoek owned a copy of th [...]

    13. A very thorough look at how truly seeing is important to both art and science. Both art and science can not rely solely on eyesight to see; they need lenses, camera obscura, and realizing that preconceived notions can shape perception. I had known of Vermeer, but Leeuwenhoek was a new discovery. His incredible importance to science had previously escaped me.

    14. Excellent insight into 16th century Delft. The Netherlands was incredibly advanced during this time, owing largely to their extremely successful enterprises in trade, which brought into the country vast quantities of wealth. While its heavy on the Leeuwenhoek and light on the Vermeer its a fascinating account of an extremely productive era in human history

    15. Very well written, the author understands the creative process, which is unusual for a science writer. She shows the influence optical experiments and technology had on art and how Vermeer and his contemporaries viewed the visible, and until then invisible, world. Entertaining and easy to read.

    16. Excellent book about the artist Vermeer and the microscopist Leeuwenhoek who both lived in the same Dutch town. Although they lived during the same time period, there is no evidence that they knew each other. Both of them changed the way we see the world. Very scholarly work.

    17. "Vermeer did not trace his paintings wholesale from the camera obscura image. But one need not conjecture that Vermeer traced a camera obscura image in order to see a role for it in his toolkit. He used the camera obscura much as the natural philosophers used it: to experiment with light, to investigate and discover its optical properties. His object would have been to learn how to create the "semblance of reality" -- how to attain that sense of "houding," that make-believe space that feels real [...]

    18. I enjoyed this book well enough but it needs a proper edit to trim an over-abundance of detail, repetition and re-statement. A good book, it could've been a better one, worthy of four stars. I love the art of the Dutch Republic and was drawn by the promise of better understanding the transcendent art of Johannes Vermeer. Well I do, and I don't, after reading this book. Overall I was a tad disappointed, though it isn't fair to blame an author for not writing the book you want so don't let that di [...]

    19. This book is definitely one that is hard to classify. Is it about art? Is it about science? Is it about human perception? It's a little of all of those. And there's some Dutch history tossed in as well.Mostly the book is about the revolution in how people literally saw the world starting in the 17th Century. Van Leeuwenhoek developed the modern microscope and he was the first to use it to find out that human bodies have a lot of very small creatures floating around in them.Vermeer turns up in th [...]

    20. It is a comprehensive study of "seeing" devices that were new or under development in the 17th century, particularly cameras obscura that many artists used for the composition of their pictures. I thought is would deal basically with Johannes Vermeer and instead I found a treatise on optics. Not that it wasn't interesting - it was, and very much so, but I am not gifted in sciences but I'm in love with art, hence my relative disappointment with this book. Anyway, Ms. Snyder is a very talented his [...]

    21. I worked this in as a quick read to break up the monotony of trilogies and fantasy fiction, and was pleasantly suprised. This book has an excellent blend of historical content with eloquent storytelling. I was more interested in the art aspect, but found myself sucked into the science. This is not the quick saturday reader I had hoped, it's very slow and technical in parts, but all beautifully written. I am thrilled to have came across this, and it will be a book I dwell on for years to come as [...]

    22. I made it half way through this book. Snyder presents interesting facts about the lives of Vermeer and Leeuwenhoeck and how they intersect (or potentially intersect). However, it seemed filled with too much detail, much of which did not relate to a central idea. I was disappointed because her book about early scientists "The Philosophical Breakfast Club" was a pleasure to read. The latter explored the development of science as its own discipline and the small group of English academics leading t [...]

    23. We might think that we naturally just see, but we learn to see. This book has many insights into how, for instance, optical instruments, especially the camera obscura and the microscope, have altered our ways of seeing. In addition, the author points out how mindsets have to change, for people to see in new ways. There is more on Van Leeuwenhoek than Vermeer, however, because there is less documentation on Vermeer.

    24. It was a good exposition of the talents of Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek, but from the title, I had expected more than circumstantial evidence to tie the two men together. Same city, same time, same street but nothing that proves that they worked in the same circle. If you're looking for the ties that bind, this will disappoint. The average rating is not for the lack of evidence, but the uneven, and sometimes interrupted progress in telling each story.

    25. Well, I must admit the descriptions of some apparatus and techniques of painting were way over my head. But the insight into the parallel and often overlapping worlds of Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek was fascinating. They were on the cutting edge of science and art, developing news ways to learn how to observe what they were seeing. I will not think of the microscope and the camera obscura in the same light again.

    26. Having lived in Delft for many years and loving the 17th century this book was awesome fit for me. The author brought so much historical details to lightAnd gave me more understanding of the two subjects which were both brilliant contributors to our world.

    27. Colossal waste of words.A ponderous mish-mash of hypotheses, suppositions and speculations piled very high regurgitated over and over again leading nowhere.Perhaps most disappointing of all were the favourable reviews on .

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