Eye of the Beholder

Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing
Narrated by: Tamara Marston
Length: 13 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
4 out of 5 stars (39 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"See for yourself!" was the clarion call of the 1600s. Natural philosophers threw off the yoke of ancient authority, peered at nature with microscopes and telescopes, and ignited the scientific revolution. Artists investigated nature with lenses and created paintings filled with realistic effects of light and shadow. The hub of this optical innovation was the small Dutch city of Delft.

Here Johannes Vermeer's experiments with lenses and a camera obscura taught him how we see under different conditions of light and helped him create the most luminous works of art ever beheld. Meanwhile his neighbor Antoni van Leeuwenhoek's work with microscopes revealed a previously unimagined realm of minuscule creatures. The result was a transformation in both art and science that revolutionized how we see the world today.

©2015 Laura J. Snyder by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Historical book about the evolution of optics through the eyes of two geniuses

I came to this book through my love of Vermeer, hoping to learn more about this genius. I got to know Van Leeuwenhoek through the process. However as I'm not an optics fan. I found the book to be very technically detailed and..a bit boring. The amount of physicists, philosophers and others mentioned was a bit too much. All in all a good book. Just not for the layperson art lover

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Historical knowledge

Historical knowledge put together in an entertaining manner to provide interesting story. I wanted to gather more information. Amazing 17th century inventions.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Terrific book

I found this a bracing, stimulating listen. While I can understand some of the complaints of other listeners (too drawn out, too many details), I do not share them. While not every detail in a book of history is necessarily exciting in itself, yet it is the wealth of details upon which the book ultimately rests. A good book of this sort builds up a context that illuminates many things, and it fills up this context with details that bring us in touch with its reality.

This book represents serious research and an original perspective, and so may not be entirely to the taste of listeners who do not start out with some knowledge of the 17th century and prefer a faster flowing narrative. But to me it is worth two credits. It is itself a microscope of sorts that gave me a better look into the 17th century. I came away exhilarated and treasuring every page..

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Unique perspective, but needs to be tightened up

For Vermeer fans, this book offers a sort of mini-biography, including lots of little everyday details as the cost of bread, the magnitude of his debts, the typical price of his paintings, etc. For those (like me) who knew nothing about van Leuwenhoek, it give a lot of insight into a man who, though less enigmatic than Vermeer and whose life is far better documented, is fully as intriguing and interesting a character. There are no breakthrough revelations about Vermeer, but one gets a very rich picture of what his life may have been like.

But the book drags on, it goes too far afield in chasing down details. I found myself skipping forwards repeatedly, and not feeling like I had missed anything. Would have been far better at 2/3 its current size. The narrator does very well, and to her credit tells us when she is on a footnote and when the note has ended, something other narrators are (incredibly) unable/unwilling to do. She keeps sounding interested in the subject, even when I've lost interest.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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interesting but repetitive

Interesting and informative with an intriguing view into the era yet not particularly engaging and often repetitive.

1 person found this helpful