Analysis of Gerrit Dou's Painting, Astronomer by Candlelight

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Analysis of Gerrit Dou's Painting, Astronomer by Candlelight

Surprisingly small compared to other works, “Astronomer by Candlelight” by Gerrit Dou could be easily overlooked by a casual stroller. However, as I approached it to have a closer look, other paintings quickly lost interest for me. The closer I got, the more detail appeared; the scene came alive with the play of light and dark. The astronomer, eternally still, pulsed with life, pondering over his books. Within a foot of the painting I began to feel as though I was looking through a keyhole into his study. Indeed, Dou's work and all its facets becomes an emblem for "the inquiry of truth, which is the lovemaking, or the wooing of it... [as] the sovereign
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Unlike the statue however, the young man is not concentrated with thought, but rather passionately engaged with the text. His slightly open mouth paired with a reverent stare leaves no question of doubt about his concentration on the Astronomical treatise. The roundness of his features accentuated by the softness of the light make the astronomer visually attractive. The reddish hue given off by the candle further infers the man’s strong passion for learning.

The visual field of the astronomer lies within a sphere of light given off by the candle. The limit to the breadth of his vision creates a stronger emphasis on the objects he can see. Likewise, in education one needs to visually and mentally concentrate on a specific idea or task, disregarding extraneous detail. Moreover, Dou cloaks the secondary objects in the background and foreground in darkness leaving only the essential tools of study. This enables the astronomer, and those looking upon him, to focus on the select items within illumination. Having the astronomer hold the candle in his hand, Dou states that individual’s focus of attention rests in his/her hands. A good student needs to concentrate with effective focus and clarity of mind.

A beaker with clear liquid, water perhaps, rests to the right of the astronomer. The clarity of the liquid reflects the purity of the student's mind. If Bacon's truth is a white

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