June 2004
Volume 4, Issue 8
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2004
Was Rembrandt Stereoblind?
Author Affiliations
  • Margaret S. Livingstone
    Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, USA
Journal of Vision August 2004, Vol.4, 458. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/4.8.458
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      Margaret S. Livingstone, Bevil R. Conway; Was Rembrandt Stereoblind?. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):458. https://doi.org/10.1167/4.8.458.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Stereopsis requires precise alignment of the gaze directions of the two eyes. Individuals with poorly aligned eyes seldom have good stereopsis. Eye alignment can be roughly evaluated from frontal photographs by comparing the relative positions of the light reflections in the two eyes, as long as the subject is not looking a near object and as long as the light source is not close to the subject. Stereoblindness may be an asset for an artist whose goal is to render the 3-D world on a flat canvas; closing one eye in order to see the world as flat is a technique taught in drawing classes. Therefore people who already see the world as flat might have an advantage in the field of art. We examined photographs of artists and found that a number of highly acclaimed artists show poor eye alignment, suggesting that they would be stereoblind. Artists whose photographs are suggestive of poor stereopsis include Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Diego Rivera, Lee Krasner, Marc Chagall, Robert Rauschenberg, Alexander Calder, Man Ray, Chuck Close, Cara Walker, and Pablo Picasso. It is less credible to venture a diagnosis of stereoblindness from a painting than from a photograph. Nevertheless, it seems worth noting that a surprising number of Rembrandt's self portraits exhibit exophthalmus.

Livingstone, M. S., Conway, B. R.(2004). Was Rembrandt Stereoblind? [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 4( 8): 458, 458a, http://journalofvision.org/4/8/458/, doi:10.1167/4.8.458. [CrossRef]

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