Johannes Vermeer's luminous paintings are loved and admired around the world, yet we do not understand how they were made. We see sunlit spaces; the glimmer of satin, silver, and linen; we see the softness of a hand on a lute string or letter. We recognise the distilled impression of a moment of time; and we feel it to be real.
We might hope for some answers from the experts, but they are confounded too. Even with the modern technology available, they do not know why there is no evidence of any preliminary drawing; why there are shifts in focus; and why his pictures are unusually blurred. Some wonder if he might possibly have used a camera obscura to capture what he saw before him. The few traces Vermeer has left behind tell us little: there are no letters or diaries; and no reports of him at work.
Jane Jelley has taken a new path in this detective story. A painter herself, she has worked with the materials of his time: the cochineal insect and lapis lazuli; the sheep bones, soot, earth, and rust. She shows us how painters made their pictures layer by layer; she investigates old secrets; and hears travellers' tales. She explores how Vermeer could have used a lens in the creation of his masterpieces.
The clues were there all along. After all this time, now we can unlock the studio door, and catch a glimpse of Vermeer inside, painting light.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Weight: 512 g
Dimensions: 216 x 147 x 17 mm
This is not another speculative Vermeer biography, a fill-in-the-gaps, guesswork life. This is Vermeer the painter, by a painter.... Jelley's meticulous approach yields fascinating insights.
Well-researched... vivid... fascinating.
The exquisitely luminous paintings of Johannes Vermeer have long stirred debate over whether the seventeenth-century Dutch master used optical aids. Artist Jane Jelley probed the issue pragmatically.
The appeal of Jelley's elegant book is the product of her literary style and the abundant reproductions of Vermeer's work and that of his contemporaries. Jelley's volume is a work of art in itself.
Fascinating. Jelley brings a vast knowledge, and, more importantly, practice, of traditional painting techniques... she proposes a novel suggestion as to how exactly Vermeer could have used a camera obscura... A boon to both scholars and casual art appreciators.
Along the way... Jelley infuses her descriptions of Vermeer's world with a vivid immediacy, taking readers into the hustle and bustle of market day in Delft... It quickly becomes an immersive reading experience, like an excellent historical novel with 62 pages of fine-type end notes attached to help with further inquiries.
In this overtly investigative yet very readable book [Jane Jelley] bequeaths the reader with an inexorable intrigue that is altogether contagious.
Sensational... revelatory and wholly convincing.
A fascinating approach that throws up a plethora of intriguing details that add to the texture of Vermeer's life and technique... Jelley's ingenious experiment offer[s] a plausible suggestion as to how he set about his magical paintings.
Traces of Vermeer is an intriguing account of artistic practice... [Jane Jelley's] writing is fluid and poetic, and this publication is an enjoyable read, feeling like a detective story from the outset... [the] discoveries made by the author in this book... give us valuable insights that will influence the way we view and interpret Vermeer's paintings and mysterious working practices.
An absolute delight. A rich and highly original exploration of Vermeer's life and work seen through the eyes of a practising painter.
Featuring wonderful illustrations, engaging prose, and a deep knowledge of the craft, this is a study in art history and methodology to delight an audience beyond just visual artists.
Jane Jelley adds a unique perspective on Vermeer's techniques and style.