Did Da Vinci and Rembrandt’s Creative Genius Lie in The Way They Saw Themselves?

Famous painters da Vinci and Rembrandt, though from various centuries, had one curiosity in typical: The way the artists saw themselves in the mirror was likely a bit various than how others saw them, according to brand-new findings.

The Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci and the 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn painted themselves in a strange way — with one eye turned outside. That has actually led a variety of scholars to recommend that these well-known painters really had actually crossed eyes, a medical condition called “strabismus.” These scholars recommended that the painters had a particular kind of strabismus called “exotropia” in which one or both of the eyes are turned outside.

But no historic files appear to exist that link the painters to such a medical condition. Now, a brand-new research study recommends that the 2 painters didn’t really have an outward-looking eye, however rather, they both had one dominant eye that led them to view themselves in the mirror as if having an outward-looking eye. 

Related: Photos: How Dutch Painter Rembrandt Created His Famous Self-Portraits

“When looking at one’s own eyes in a mirror, an individual can look at only one eye at a time,” the scientists composed in their brand-new research study released today (Nov. 26) in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. 

The eye you concentrate on in the mirror sees its own reflection looking directly back; however the other eye, seeing the very first eye at an angle, sees that very first eye as if it’s turned outside.

Most individuals’s brains naturally find out to prefer the image of the eye that looks directly back at the person and to disregard the misalignment seen by the other eye. However some individuals — those who have a dominant eye — see themselves from the viewpoint of their dominant eye. 

“A strongly dominant right eye sees the reflected image of the left eye as being turned out when in fact no true turn out exists and vice versa for a strongly dominant left eye,” the scientists composed in the research study. 

To represent this, they took pictures of an individual’s eyes as if they didn’t have a dominant eye and as if they did.

They then developed a mathematical formula to explain the degree of viewed exotropia, which depends upon the range in between the individual and the mirror along with the range in between the individual’s eyes.

What’s more, the degree of exotropia usually increases as an individual ages, however the misalignment seen in Rembrandt’s self-portraits didn’t increase in time, according to the scientists. “Strong eye dominance is a more plausible alternative than constant misalignment to explain the apparent exotropia in Rembrandt’s self-portraits,” the scientists composed. 

But not everybody is persuaded by this argument. “Yes, eye dominance can result in a SLIGHT deviation from apparent alignment, but not nearly as significant as the deviation Rembrandt shows himself as having,” Margaret Livingstone, a teacher of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School who was not a part of the research study, composed in an e-mail to Live Science. “Just look at their examples and then at any Rembrandt self-portrait you can find.” 

In a previous research study, Livingstone and her coworker evaluated 36 self-portraits by Rembrandt and discovered that he painted among his eyes looking outside in all however one. They concluded that he needs to have had exotropia. Yet, another scientist formerly evaluated 6 art work from da Vinci and others believed to have actually utilized da Vinci as a design and concluded that he likewise need to have had exotropia.

Christopher Tyler, a teacher in the City University of London’s Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences in the United Kingdom and author of that research study concurs that the proof still indicates exotropia instead of a dominant eye.

“It is a clever idea, but quantitatively to make it work they are proposing that the artist sat 6.5 inches away from the mirror they used to view themselves in,” Tyler informed Live Science in an e-mail. “This might work for a head shot, but is obviously not the case for most of Rembrandt’s half-length portraits, or for Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man of Salvator Mundi.” 

What’s more, 4 of the works Tyler evaluated in his research study were sculptures of da Vinci produced by others. Yet, the sculptures likewise had one eye looking off to the side which the authors analyzed as an “artistic device” to reveal that the sculpture is recalling at an individual when seen from numerous instructions, Tyler stated. “To make this case, they would have to show that  this was widely used among sculptures, but my research suggests that it was not at all common in sculpture of the time.”

So whether these well-known painters really saw the world in a different way or saw themselves in a different way stays as uncertain as a foggy mirror.

Originally released on Live Science.

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