ARTS & CULTURE
11/30/2013 05:26 pm ET Updated Jan 30, 2014

Reverse-Engineering A Genius (Has A Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?)

Johannes Vermeer

David Hockney and others have speculated—controversially—that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas—the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller—may have solved the riddle.

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