A number of writers on Vermeer
have questioned the feasibility of a camera technique, or doubted
the possibility that he might have copied camera images more or
less in their entirety. Camera obscuras in the 17th century were
not useable for painting, the images they produced were too poor,
lenses of sufficient size would not have been available to Vermeer.
This chapter takes on these criticisms and offers counter-arguments
both technical and historical. Some art historians have proposed
that Vermeer used other techniques to set up his perspectives:
tracing over images in mirrors, or following standard mathematical
methods as set out in perspective manuals. Steadman argues that
these may be plausible and feasible methods in themselves: but
that there is little or no evidence in Vermeer’s paintings to
support such suggestions. There are no drawn outlines or other
marks of perspective construction beneath Vermeer’s paint surfaces.
Most decisively, there is no apparent way in which a mathematical
perspective method (or a method involving mirrors) would produce
the peculiar geometry described in Chapter 6, which is so simply
accounted for by a camera technique.
projection of an interior with objects, from Hendrik Hondius's
'Institutio artis perspectivae', The Hague, 1622.