"Here's a du-rag, because f**k off if you think I'm drawing all that hair."
But British painter David Hockney has a controversial theory about how these artists were able to replicate such lifelike attention to detail -- that is, they traced them, and we've been made for chumps for centuries.
As Hockney points out, Renaissance artists would have been fully aware of the existence of the invention that would become the predecessor of the modern camera, the camera obscura, a simple device that allowed one to project an image from real life onto an adjacent surface. Hockney's contention is that some of the Renaissance masters may have made use of this device to basically trace their lifelike masterpieces onto the canvas, by Occam's razor if nothing else.
People were really good at staying still in those days.
Of course, art historians and curators are pretty pissed off at the suggestion that some of history's greatest artists may have cheated, but Hockney is quick to respond that he doesn't think it lessens their achievements. That's where researcher Tim Jenison comes in -- Jenison, who had no experience in painting, solicited the unlikely help of magicians/bullshit-debunkers Penn and Teller to see if he could create a Renaissance masterpiece with nothing but a camera obscura for guidance. Jenison and Penn and Teller set up a real-life room to match as closely as possible the scene depicted in Vermeer's painting The Music Lesson and set up a camera obscura. Then, Jenison -- who had to teach himself how to hold a paintbrush for the project -- set to work replicating the scene using the projection as a guide. The result cuts through the heart of art aficionados everywhere:
Jenison imitation (left); Vermeer masterpiece (right).
The result isn't proof, obviously. It's just that realistic painting techniques happened to emerge right around the same time as an invention that would have made it way easier to do realistic paintings. If they didn't use the shortcut, we should admire them even more for resisting the urge.
See? We're not saying everything in your life is a lie, just that it might be.
For more ridiculous theories that actually sound pretty plausible, check out 5 Insane (but Convincing) Theories About Dead Celebrities and 4 Mind-Blowing Theories About Famous Lines in the Bible.
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