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Enchantment of Rembrandt Explained

Enchantment of Rembrandt ExplainedGenius in art, although difficult to explain, is easily viewed in work by Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and others.

A University of British Columbia researcher has a new theory on what makes Rembrandt’s masterful portraits so appealing.

In the study, published in the current issue of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s arts and sciences journal Leonardo, UBC researcher Steve DiPaola argues that Rembrandt may have pioneered a technique that guides the viewer’s gaze around a portrait, creating a special narrative and “calmer” viewing experience.

Renaissance artists used various techniques to engage viewers, many incorporating new scientific knowledge on lighting, spatial layout and perspectives.

To isolate and pinpoint factors that contribute to the “magic” of Rembrandt’s portraits, DiPaola used computer-rendering programs to recreate four of the artist’s most famous portraits from photographs of himself and other models.

Replicating Rembrandt’s techniques, he placed a sharper focus on specific areas of the model’s face, such as the eyes.

Working with a team from the Vision Lab in UBC’s psychology department, DiPaola then tracked viewers’ eye movements while they examined the original photographs and the Rembrandt-like portraits.

“When viewing the Rembrandt-like portraits, viewers fixated on the detailed eye faster and stayed there for longer periods of time, resulting in calmer eye movements,” says DiPaola.

“The transition from sharp to blurry edges, known as ‘lost and found edges,’ also directed the viewers’ eyes around the portrait in a sort of narrative.”

The study is the first to scientifically verify the impact of these eye-guiding techniques on viewers and to attribute its origin to Rembrandt.

The viewers also preferred portraits with this eye-guiding narrative to the original photographs with uniform details across the tableau.

“Through these techniques, Rembrandt is essentially playing tour guide to his viewers hundreds of years after his death, creating a unique narrative by guiding the viewers’ eye,” says DiPaola. This may explain why people appreciate portraiture as an art form. Whether he observed how his own eyes behaved while viewing a painting or if he did it by intuition, Rembrandt incorporated an understanding of how the human eye works that has since been proven accurate.”

Source: University of British Columbia

Enchantment of Rembrandt Explained

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Enchantment of Rembrandt Explained. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/06/01/enchantment-of-rembrandt-explained/14208.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.