Digital Pedagogy ENG 889

What opportunities do digital archives provide us? What are the limitations of digital collections? There is a theory of learning that states no copy can replace the original, but this is how the practice of Art History as perpetuated its cannon for almost a century. Rather than mourn our disingenuous copies, what could be accomplished by asking ourselves what we could do with the freedom a copy provides? The freedom to experiment, play, and interact without fear of destruction or loss. Will the art world out-live it's bourgeois economy based in the "unique," and will it find its purpose within the contemporary, endlessly replicable digital world?

Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, 1664 - c. 1664, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
The provenance of a painting is said to validate authenticity, and yet it can be difficult to pronounce a painting as original or as a fake. Vermeer's are some of the most contested pieces today, owing to the artist's relatively small body of work (only 26 or so in his lifetime) and the master forger Van Meegeren who caused a scandal when he admitted to having forged several "masterpieces," including what was thought to be a lost Vermeer. As we consider the themes of originality and copy, let us first look at the stylistic themes of a few of Vermeer's least-contested works.
Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, 1664 - c. 1664, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
1: Singular Light Source
Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, 1664 - c. 1664, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
2: Still life (a contemporary dutch preoccupation)
3: A palette of specific red and blue pigments, especially natural ultramarine known as Lapis Lazuli, a very expensive resource. Unlike most paintings which reserved such expensive materials for limited and divine representation, Vermeer used this pigment generously.
Again, we have a singular light source
And a small still life
The milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, Around 1660, From the collection of: Rijksmuseum
Can you notice any other consistent techniques?
Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, Johannes Vermeer, ca. 1659, From the collection of: Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden State Art Museums
Why might these be a questionable Vermeer?
A Lady Writing, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
And this?
Now compare these to the paintings in the film below, featuring the forgeries by Van Meegeren.
Both of these paintings were featured in the film - now, do you believe you're looking at original or a copy? Does it matter?
Credits: All media
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