Jerry Brotton

Delft Touches

Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing

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There have been innumerable books written on Vermeer since Tracy Chevalier’s bestselling historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, first published in 1999, inspired a trend. Laura Snyder’s new contribution to the field, Eye of the Beholder, suggests that it is now time for a moratorium on books about the poor painter from Delft. Snyder, who found popularity in the United States with The Philosophical Breakfast Club, a group biography of the scientific collaborations of Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell and Richard Jones in Cambridge in the early 19th century, has tried to re-create her success with this account of the life and work of Vermeer (1632–75) and his contemporary Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), a fellow inhabitant of Delft and the man widely regarded as the first microbiologist thanks to his obsessive development of some of the finest 17th-century microscopes. 

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