Rembrandt: the secret of his magic touch

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Louise Hay

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The pictures of Rembrandt they stand out for the attraction they exercise and for their realism. When we are in front of his paintings we feel particularly relaxed, regardless of the dark background so characteristic in the portraits of this era. But… what mystery lies behind Rembrandt's paintings that make them so enchanting? British Columbia University researchers are sure they have discovered the secret.

Di Paola, the chief scholar, says that Rembrandt used pioneering techniques that guide the viewer's vision to generate a relaxed yet special visual experience. This idea is not new, we know that many Renaissance artists used different techniques to fascinate the viewer, many of these coming from the most recent scientific discoveries relating to light, distribution in space and perspectives. To determine which factors contribute decisively to the magical touch of Rembrandt's portraits, Di Paola used representation programs (software), which allow four of the artist's most famous portraits to be recreated. At the same time, he recorded the movement of the spectators' eyes as they examined the original paintings. What happened? After a quick wandering around the portrait (resulting in rapid eye movements), viewers normally stood admiring the eyes that appeared in the portraits for a long time, resulting in calmer eye movements. The transition between sharp and blurry edges (known as "lost and found edge art") also attracted the attention of the viewers by creating a kind of narrative for the whole picture. These slower and more direct eye movements would be the key to which Rembrandt's paintings cause so much charm and tranquility. It is also known that viewers prefer paintings that possess this kind of "direct visual narrative" rather than those that are simply a collection of details on a canvas. Even if I am not a specialist in plastic art, I would still venture to say that the emphasis in the eyes of his paintings is what leads us to immediately understand the emotions and also allows us to get an idea of ​​the psychological profile of the person portrayed. This idea is shared by some art critics who have come to affirm that Rembrandt was a painter of the psychological sphere of the people he tried to immortalize. It should be emphasized that this is the first study that scientifically verifies the technique of "direction of the eyes", whose origins were attributed to Rembrandt even if it is not known precisely whether it was pure intuitive gambling or the result of deep meditation and study, since the artist knew that painters observe differently. Or perhaps an attempt by the painter to support the idea that "the soul is read through the eyes" ...

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