This interdisciplinary paper hypothesizes that Rembrandt developed new painterly techniques — novel to the early modern period — in order to engage and direct the gaze of the observer. Though these methods were not based on scientific evidence at the time, we show that they nonetheless are consistent with a contemporary understanding of human vision. Here we propose that artists in the late ‘early modern’ period developed the technique of textural agency — involving selective variation in image detail — to guide the observer’s eye and thereby influence the viewing experience. The paper begins by establishing the well-known use of textural agency among modern portrait artists, before considering the possibility that Rembrandt developed these techniques in his late portraits in reaction to his Italian contemporaries. A final section brings the argument full circle, with the presentation of laboratory evidence that Rembrandt’s techniques indeed guide the modern viewer’s eye in the way we propose.
DiPaola, S., Riebe, C., & Enns, J. (2010). Rembrandt's textural agency: A shared perspective in visual art and science. Leonardo 43(2), 145-151.
Rembrandt's Textural Agency: A Shared Perspective in Visual Art and Science
Copyright is held by the author(s).
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit this work under the following conditions: You must give attribution to the work (but not in any way that suggests that the author endorses you or your use of the work); You may not use this work for commercial purposes; You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
Member of collection