Monday, May 09, 2022

A Still Life Map of the World

Jason Farago of the New York Times has published another close reading of a Dutch masterpiece. Over the last few years Farago has released a number of art essays which look closely at famous works of arts. Each of these art critiques owe a lot to the navigation and presentation techniques developed for online interactive maps. As you progress through one of his close readings an accompanying interactive zooms and pans around an image of the discussed painting to help illustrate Farago's observations of the artist's work.

In his latest close reading A Messy Table, A Map of the World Farago examines a still life by the 17th Century Dutch artist Willem Claesz Heda. In his essay Farago critiques Heda's painting 'Still Life With a Gilt Cup', while also exploring the wider context of the still life in art history and the genre's rising popularity in the booming economy of the Netherlands in the 17th Century.

By zooming in on each of the objects carefully arranged in Heda's painting Farago is able to illustrate the artist's skill. These opulent and exotic foods and objects also represent and signify a Dutch economy which is at the center of world trade.

Farago's previous critiques of individual paintings include:


If you are familiar with the Leaflet.js mapping library then you can create your own interactive painting critiques - using image tiles from paintings instead of map tiles. Museums and art galleries around the world use the iiif format to present artworks as zoomable images. This means that for many works of art, if they have a iiif manifest, you don't even have to create the image tiles for yourself.

The fantastic leaflet-iiif plugin allows you to seamlessly use iiif manifests with the Leaflet mapping platform.This means that you can quickly turn any painting with a iiif manifest into an interactive Leaflet map. You can view a demo of this in action on my The Drawing Lesson critique. In this scrollytelling examination of Jan Steen's painting (depicting an artist teaching two young pupils how to draw) I have used the Leaflet mapping library to take a close look at Steen's 17th century Dutch masterpiece. 

You can explore how my critique of the Drawing Lesson works by exploring the JavaScript code on its Glitch page. You can even clone the page if you want and use the page as a template for creating your own interactive scrollytelling painting essay. 

No comments: