Arts Everyday Living: The Art of Thought—Vermeer & the World of Science

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A man has always to be busy with his thoughts if anything is to be accomplished.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek




Johannes Vermeer, The Geographer, c. 1668-1669, oil on canvas, Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, Germany

The models of Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) still remain a mystery despite intensive research by art historians over the centuries. However, the intense young man of The Geographer above, so absorbed in his calculations, might be the Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), best known for discovering the existence of bacteria with an early version of the microscope.*  The two were both from Delft, baptized only days apart, so the likelihood of their being acquaintances or even friends is probable, although yet to be proven.

And van Leeuwenhoek might have also posed for The Astronomer, done about 1668, around the time Vermeer created The Geographer.


Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomer, c. 1668, oil on canvas,  The Louvre, Paris, France

*The source is Johannes Vermeer by Arthur Wheelock, Jr. and other art historians for catalogue of exhibition, published by National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Royal Canbinet of Paintings, Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1995.

The above image is used solely for educational purposes.

Focus in on the art of contemplation with Vermeer in Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively!

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