Wonderful to travel along with your trains of thought, as always. Your post prompted me to reread Vermeer in Bosnia, where you write movingly about how the artist’s paintings invented a “zone of peace” in the midst of “a tremendously turbulent juncture” in European history. Yet in your discussion of his View of Delft you neglect to mention that the city that appears so peaceful and prosperous in the painting had famously suffered a cataclysm only 5 or 6 years before!— the result of an accidental ignition of gunpowder stored for the purpose for prosecuting those endless and bloody wars. It’s a strange omission that seemingly would have underlined your thesis.

You may know that Tim Jenison, after the release of Tim’s Vermeer, spent 7 months re-painting the View of Delft from the precise location where he calculated Vermeer had set up his easel (and, presumably, his optical apparatus). (This project, which was well documented, should eventually be released as another film.)

I find it strange that in Tim’s Vermeer, and in the writing about it, the profound implications of how software programs such as his Lightwave 3D are in the process of mastering every aspect of the appearance of the world in motion (it should really be Lightwave 4D) are skirted over, and with scant appreciation for the sheer scale of the achievement. These programs are like immense cathedrals, with a thousand richly detailed side chapels— for smoke, for water, for lens effects and so on— each with a hundred of side chapels of its own. As an occasional animator (I’m primarily a painter), I have been using Lightwave for many years, as it was cheap and could run on a Mac when comparable software cost tens of thousands and required a workstation. For what it’s worth, with enough expertise, data and computing power one could now animate a perfectly convincing interactive stereoscopic image of Delft with shafts of emerging light, roiling clouds, rippling water, and so on— and then the explosion!

All the more reason, perhaps, to appreciate the profound restraint of Vermeer — and Chris Marker.

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