Jerry Brotton

Delft Touches

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


Head of Zeus 432pp £25 order from our bookshop

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. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Antonio Damasio's 'The Strange Order of Things' is a revolutionary view of the mind and its place in the world. Joh… ,
    • Terrifyingly I'm already at work (ha!) making the April issue. Feel like the March number came out but seconds ago.… ,
    • Charles I: King & Collector is until 15 April: Here's assistant editor Davi… ,
    • "Ivor Novello installed a mirrored bedroom in his apartment over the Strand Theatre ... with furniture veneered in… ,
    • Our 'footprints' series has writers talking about place and inspiration. This month it's Donald Rayfield on Dostoev… ,
    • RT : ‘Meticulously documented, full of drama … complex and compelling … this is a tale fluently told, and a thriller as… ,
    • There's still time to enter: win a brace of tickets to see the new West End production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Hu… ,