CIHA London 2000.
Thirtieth International Congress of the History of Art
Art History for the Millenium: Time.
Section 23
Digital Art History Time
London, 3-8 September 2000

Drs. Kees Kaldenbach <>, teacher and independent art historian, Amsterdam, Holland, Co-chair, AHWA-AWHA Digital Teaching Committee.

Expanding Vermeer's 1660 painting "The View of Delft" into a 3D Virtual Reality flight over Delft and a QuickTime movie showing a "Walk Through The View of Delft".

 © each author has full responsibility in owning copyright on the texts and on the images they publish on this website


Johannes Vermeer's famous painting "The View of Delft" (1660-1663) in the Mauritshuis, The Hague is currently the subject of two QuickTime movies. These are movies which can be transported on Internet, and viewed on a computer. The first is a 3D Virtual Reality flight over Delft 1660 and the second is A walk through drawings of the gates shown in Vermeer's 'View of Delft'. As a new and exciting experience these movies are didactically oriented towards both art historians as well as those who hardly ever visit an art museum.


3D Virtual Reality Flight over Delft 1660

Inspired by his long topographical study of the area of the painting, in 1997 the author initiated a virtual reality (vr) 3D flight over the Delft of 1660. This was carried out by the Delft University of Technology (TUD) who had built the necessary software for the vr flight with 'Karma'. Karma was created by two TUD faculties; the Geodesy sub-faculty in collaboration with Technical Mathematics and Informatics. For this project a 1650/1660s map of Delft was digitized. Then the resulting data set was coded and worked into a virtual 3D model of Delft as it must have once looked from a distance. Due to the powerful Karma software, viewers can actually witness a real time free-flight over this model; either on a computer screen or projected by video onto a large wall.

 The technology behind the 3D effect requires some explanation. The software generates two nearly simultaneous images; one as seen with the left eye from coordinate point x-y-z and the other as seen by the right eye from some 10 to 20 centimeters immediately to the right of this point. Both images are then produced very rapidly in succession on the same screen at a rate of about 30 times a second. Special electronic eyeglasses make it possible to quickly block and free the viewing eye from the left eye to the right one at the same frequency. Thanks to the adaptative power of the human eye, the wonderful impression of spatial 3D occurs.

The Geodesy sub-faculty was able and willing to execute this project to showcase their technological abilities. The first flight was achieved in November 1997, and the result subsequently exhibited in the Delft Technical Museum. An interview with the team of producers was shown on a local television network at that time.

In 2000 a small QuickTime version of the flight will be produced showing one fixed-path flight over Delft. This video movie is available on the internet in 2001. The 3D effect will not be available as the necessary software and special glasses required are not widely distributed.

For more technical detail discussed in English, Dutch, German and French and an in depth analysis of Vermeer's paintings see the author's home page.


A walk through the drawings of the gates shown in Vermeer's 'View of Delft'

Another project initiated by the author is a Quick-time movie showing a walk through the gates of Vermeer's Delft in 1660. It is currently (in the summer of 2000) being produced by the Industrial Design Department of the OCP faculty (Design Engineering and Production) of the Delft University of Technology (TUD). Since 1975 the author has collected a large number of views (photographs, paintings, drawings, engravings) of the area depicted by Vermeer in his "View of Delft". In May 2000 this project began by scanning selected images from the Delft Archives, which graciously gave their full cooperation. These basic images were then manipulated with Canoma., a commercially available software package which allows any photograph of a spatial object to be quickly (but imperfectly) translated into a spatial scene. One first scans the image. Objects within the scene must then be identified and tagged as rectangles, cones, spheres etc. After this tagging is finished one is able to take a virtual camera through the resulting electronic image, going forward, up, down, left or right, into any desired direction. A succession of these images generated by Canoma can then be spliced and electronically fused into a continuous walk through the ancient town gates of Delft as they appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. This area in the south of Delft where tow boats (an early form of public transportation) once docked, has been sketched, drawn and engraved by many artists throughout the ages. So many examples have been kept for posterity that a true-to-life virtual reality recreation of the physical site is possible. Because so many images were available it has become possible to create a continuous virtual walk from the outer edge of town, via the Rotterdam Gate (see image to the left - it is the gate on the right hand side of the Vermeer painting) onto the bridge where one can see a wide arc of the town from within.

In 2001 results will be available for viewing on the author's home page. The succession of Canoma images have been transferred into QuickTime movies. Both these QuickTime movies could one day also be used for other purposes, as part of a CD-rom or vr program or in a television program focusing on the multitude of artists, artisans and patrons living in 17th century Delft. Part of this project will be a clickable map showing the location of the addresses of some 70 artists and 70 patrons in 17th century Delft - located by the present author. This research is also presented in the 2001 exhibition Vermeer and the Delft School in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC and the National Gallery, London. John Michael Montias, the foremost authority on the subject of artists and artisans in 17th century Delft and who has published widely on the subject, has kindly agreed to the use of his findings in future projects.

As one of the highlights of Western painting the subject of the 'View of Delft' is a particularly suitable subject. Although only vestiges of its former grandeur are now visible at the actual site, 21st century technology enables us to show a moving virtual reality image of Delft as it was in 1660. Images may help in temporarily bridging the gap between a youthful image-oriented pop culture public and those in the field of fine arts and art history.

Note on a personal quest

My fascination with Johannes Vermeer's paintings dates from my stunned reaction to his grand canvas "The Art of Painting" when I visited Vienna in 1975. Reading such books as Albert Blankert's wonderful 1975 Vermeer biography I became aware that no in-depth research had been done as to the topographic reality of a 'View of Delft'. This set me on a quest which has not yet ended. Vermeer paintings fascinates me on at least three levels - as an image with "near vr qualities", as a source of enigma within the art of storytelling and as tangible paintings, wonderfully and near magically crafted layers of paint on canvas or panel.

Drs. Kees Kaldenbach, Amsterdam, September 5, 2000.


Internet site and

CIHA London

This lecture was presented on 3 September at "CIHA London 2000", the Thirtieth International Congress of the History of Art from 3-8 September 2000. The theme was "Art History for the Millennium: Time" Section 23 was about Digital Art History Time. The internet site was shown and commented on during the electronic poster session "Computer Demonstrations" in section 23-Z


More photos are available here.


Biographical note

Drs. Kees Kaldenbach originally trained as a teacher and is currently an independent art historian in Amsterdam, Holland. A member of Art History Webmasters Association, he is Co-chair of the AHWA Digital Teaching Committee. He is also member of the Association for Art History and of the International Society For Mathematical And Computational Aesthetics and a contributor of the Dutch Ars et Mathesis Foundation.



Kees Kaldenbach

All electronic illustrations shown in my lecture have been built by various departments of the Delft Polytechnic (Technische Universiteit Delft) in the years 1997-2000 in a close cooperation with me. The captions mention copyright in the name of both TUD and me ; with this I only indicate my indebtedness. I do have written permission that all copyrights are now in my name. Anybody wishing to use these images must contact me before publication.

The other photos are of a more social nature have been taken by me with my camera. Thus the copyright is also mine but I welcome others to share these social images (please mention my name in a caption).



1. Title:

Computer Demonstration. Expanding Vermeer's 1660 painting "The View of Delft" into a 3D Virtual Reality flight over Delft and a QuickTime movie showing a "Walk Through The View of Delft".

2. Aims and Objectives.

Vermeer's painting "The View of Delft" has recently been transformed into both a "3D flight over Delft 1660" and a QuickTime movie showing a "Walk Through The View of Delft". These two programs present a new and enticing experience for both seasoned art historans and to the public in general. Interest could even be sparked in Vermeer for those who hardly ever visit fine art museums. Thus its didactic is oriented towards a new and an old public. At the electronic poster session called "Computer Demonstrations" in Section 23Z the Author will show the contents of his current internet sites and explain the background of what has been built, with what financial budgets, and why the projects were initiated and executed.

3. Summary description:

As proposed by Kees Kaldenbach, a Virtual Reality (VR) 3D Flight over Delft 1660 was produced by the Delft University of Technology in 1998. The VR flight has been crafted with 'Karma', a powerful software programme, which was developed by the Subfaculty of Geodesy in collaboration with the Faculty of Technical Mathematics and Informatics. A 1650s map of Delft has been digitized for this project. Another project by Kees Kaldenbach, a Quick-time movie walk through the gates of Vermeer's Delft in 1660 was produced by the Department of Industrial Design of the faculty OCP (Design Engineering and Production) of the Delft University of Technology. This project has started in May 2000 by scanning the necessary images in the Delft Archives who gave their full cooperation. These basic images have been manipulated with a Canoma software package yielding the basic images for the QuickTime movie. All results will probably be on show on the author's home page in the late summer of 2000. The material could one day become part of either an introductory CD rom or a VR programme or a TV program on Delft in the Seventeenth Century, focusing on life in Delft with its multitude of artists, artisans, patrons. A clickable map will be part of this project. Researcher John Michael Montias has agreed to enter his published findings in such a project. Seeking a publisher.

4. Central arguments

Virtual Reality presents an appealing way of looking at well known fine art images. Interest in Vermeer could be sparked both for those persons who hardly ever visit fine art museums and may entice renewed interest for those who do so frequently. Delft is a particularly fit subject because it the happy subject of a scene of one of the icon highlights of Western Painting. As an added bonus this very area in the South of Delft has been sketched and drawn and engraved by so many artists through the ages that a true-to-life Virtual Reality recreation of the physical site is possible. The actual site in 2000 shows only its bare vestiges.

5. Relation to theme.

Technology of the year 2000 enables a moving Virtual Reality image of Delft in the year 1660. It may help bridging the gap between VR oriented public and those in the field of art history.

Drs. Kees Kaldenbach


Art History Webmasters ASSOCIATION des webmestres en histoire de l'art
Research and Communication Tools in Art History
Outils de recherche et de communication en histoire de l'art
Since November 14, 1997. Depuis le 14 novembre 1997.


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