Astronomers Time & Date Vermeer's Delft

July 16 2020

Image of Astronomers Time & Date Vermeer's Delft

Picture: IFLScience

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Astronomers from Texas State University are claiming to have solved one of "the burning questions in the arts scene". Professor Donald Olson and his team have been studying the light and shadows in Vermeer's View of Delft in the Mauritshuis to try and work out exactly when it was painted. Art historians have failed to agree on these questions.

As the article explains:

"The students and I worked for about a year on this project,” Olson said in a statement. “We spent a lot of time studying the topography of the town, using maps from the 17th and 19th centuries and Google Earth.”

Central to the evidence was the light and shadow falling on the tower of Delft's Nieuwe Kerk. This narrowed down the time frame to two frames of time in either April or September.

But as they finally concluded:

As with all good detective stories, there was one last obscure piece to this puzzle – the leafy trees. In Delft’s northern climate, the trees lay bare until the end of April, ruling out the spring date. Ultimately this closed the case – Vermeer’s View of Delft was likely inspired by the scene observed on or near September 3, 1659 (or an earlier year) at 8am local mean time.

This is all interesting stuff. But, should and can paintings be interpreted as photographs are?

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