This article marks the beginning of a fascinating journey during which I, Maddalena Grazzini, the Art Director and curator of Artinside Museum, will be your guide as we delve into the individual masterpieces in AR of Artinside Museum.
Throughout this journey, you will delve into what is represented in each artwork, discover intriguing details, learn about the authors, and uncover the hidden meanings behind these extraordinary artworks.
But first, let’s discover together what Artinside Museum is all about and how Artebinaria’s groundbreaking augmented reality museum without walls works..
Artinside Museum is an enchanted virtual space where art comes to life in ways you could never have imagined, through augmented reality. There are no traditional walls in Artinside Museum; instead, the masterpieces of great artists are suspended in the space around you.
This imaginary museum, conceived, curated, and developed by Artebinaria, consists of four pavilions with 20 exhibition rooms, housing a total of 100 masterpieces at your fingertips via your iPhone or iPad. Thanks to augmented reality technology, art transcends physical boundaries, providing a unique immersion into the world of masterpieces that have left an indelible mark on the history of art.
To begin your art journey with Artinside Museum, follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Download the ‘Artinside Museum’ app from the App Store by following this link.
Step 2: Launch the app and choose to enter the first of the four Pavilions, dedicated to Daily Life. Admission to the first pavilion is free and provides access to five exhibition halls and 25 paintings by great Masters such as Jan Vermeer, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, Jan Steen, Umberto Boccioni, Petrus Christus, Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
To visit the other pavilions dedicated to Portraits, Mythology, and the Sacred, you can make an in-app purchase to gain full access to all the content in the corresponding pavilion.
Step 3: Press the ‘Enter AR‘ button while holding your device straight in front of you. You will be greeted by a menu consisting of five panels, each granting access to the five exhibition halls of the first Pavilion. You can read the title of the hall you’re in on each panel. Simply tap one of the menu panels to enter a different room. Artebinaria’s ‘A’ indicator next to the menu panel will show you which of the five halls you are currently in. The panels, from top to bottom, indicate the sequence of the five rooms in the Pavilion.
Step 4: Once inside the room, look around with your device held in front of your eyes, and you will see the five artworks that have materialized in 3D, in life-size, on the invisible walls of the hall you are in.
To carefully scrutinize every detail of the artwork, approach the piece with your device, keeping it straight in front of you, at eye level. The artwork will remain still, suspended in the space in front of you.
With your device, you can get even closer to the artwork, exploring it from every angle and admiring the most fascinating details. Move in front of the artwork just as you would if it were physically present. Your device, which you must keep straight in front of you at all times, is the tool that allows you to reveal the artwork in all its splendor. But remember, once you look away from the screen, the artwork vanishes, and the magic dissipates.
We enter the first room of the Pavilion dedicated to Everyday Life. Five works of art, carefully selected to show scenes of work activities spanning from the fifteenth century to the twentieth century. These masterpieces in AR take us on a journey through time, allowing us to explore fascinating moments of daily life. Among the main subjects, we find a goldsmith, farmers busy with harvesting, a woman ironing, street pavers at work to pave a road, and even a maid, the protagonist of Vermeer’s painting.
Our focus now shifts to the second painting, which emerges as you move clockwise within the first room dedicated to work activities. This masterpiece in augmented reality is ‘The Milkmaid’ by Jan Vermeer, a Dutch painter from the seventeenth century.
Take a step closer to the artwork with your device, keeping it – as you know – straight in front of you, and examine the piece more closely. Surely, when looking at the artwork from such proximity, you’ll be struck by the absence of the traditional frame that usually surrounds it. In my opinion, this detail adds a touch of charm, as if the artwork has been freed from the relentless passage of time. You’ll also notice that the absence of a frame accentuates the small dimensions of the piece itself, measuring just over 40 centimeters on each side.
Vermeer portrays a robust and strong woman within a simple yet richly detailed domestic environment. Let’s direct all our attention to this female figure. How is she dressed? What is she doing?
The young woman wears a bright yellow bodice with reddish stitching, a large blue apron over a heavy red wool skirt, and a white linen cap. One of the fascinating details is the working sleeves called morsmouwen or mess sleeves, which are not part of the yellow bodice but are worn separately to protect from stains.
The woman depicted by Vermeer in this painting is a maid, carrying out one of her daily tasks: she is pouring milk from a pitcher, which she holds with both hands, into a container on a table.
On the table, next to the young maid, there is a still life, painted with minute touches of color. Approach the painting a bit closer with your device, and focus on the lower left area of the artwork. Here, you can notice the details illuminated by the flickering light filtering through the window onto pieces of stale bread. The woman is slowly pouring milk into a container known as a ‘Dutch oven,’ used for slow-cooking food. It’s likely that the maid is about to use the stale bread gathered on the table to turn it into a tasty dish, perhaps a bread pudding made from soaked dry bread in milk.
Vermeer is known for his masterful use of light. The window on the left casts intense light onto the scene, creating contrasts of light and shadow that emphasize the details. The light coming from the window illuminates the maid’s face and the reflective surface of the milk container, creating an extraordinary effect of realism.
Now, bring your device closer to the left side of the painting and observe the window in more detail… here, you’ll notice an intriguing detail: there is a broken pane of glass, and through this opening, direct, unfiltered light enters.
Now take a step back while keeping your device in front of you to frame the entire canvas and not just the individual detail. Behind the young maid, there stands a white wall that reveals the marks of time. The brightness on the wall gradually increases as you approach the inside of the room. This seemingly smooth wall reveals small details that tell stories of the past: nail holes, cracks, and fissures are evident. These imperfections, rendered through variations in paint tones, give the wall an authentic and lived-in appearance over time.
You can also notice clear signs of peeling plaster, further emphasizing the age of the environment.
But there’s more. Radiographic analysis of the artwork has revealed numerous pentimenti, including the depiction of a map on the back wall. This detail prompts us to reflect on Vermeer’s artistic choices. Most likely, the artist initially included this map but later decided to remove it. This decision may have been made to create a simpler and more humble setting, perfect for a domestic scene. Here is an example of how Vermeer meticulously worked on the details and compositions of his works to convey a precise message and capture everyday life authentically.
Now, move your device to observe the area at the bottom center of the painting. Here, you can see a row of tiles serving as a baseboard. But there’s a hidden surprise: one of the tiles depicts Cupid, the God of Love, with his bow. This curious detail will be examined in more detail later, as it tells an intriguing story of its own.
Continuing to explore this small masterpiece, shift your focus to the upper-left area, where you can notice a series of fascinating details in the surrounding environment. Next to the window, there’s a hanging wicker basket and a brass pot. As you move your gaze through your device towards the bottom-left area, you’ll see scattered crumbs and a foot warmer. The foot warmer, also known as a foot stove, is a perforated wooden box containing burning coals, designed to provide warmth to the lower parts of a domestic space.
The Milkmaid’ is much more than a simple depiction of domestic life. This painting embodies domestic virtue as a fundamental value in 17th-century Netherlands. It captures the precise moment when the maid performs her daily task with precision and care, turning an apparently ordinary moment into a masterpiece.
Maids of the time were often considered symbols of desire as well. Vermeer added an intriguing detail to this painting: as mentioned earlier, one of the tiles on the baseboard depicts Cupid, the deity of love and attraction. This image of Cupid is located right next to the foot warmer, a symbol of loving warmth and desire. These details add another layer of depth to the painting. Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid,’ in addition to representing domestic virtues and the values of Dutch society, also becomes a symbol of desire and human passions.
During the period when Vermeer painted this work, painters had access to only a limited number of pigments. From our studies, we know that Vermeer used around twenty of them, although he regularly used just over 10. Among Vermeer’s favorite pigments was lead-tin yellow, also known as lemon yellow or brilliant yellow, developed around 1200. Another important pigment was the expensive ultramarine blue, extracted from the gemstone lapis lazuli, often sourced from the mountains of Afghanistan. This ultramarine blue gave his works shades of bright and deep blue. However, due to its high cost, many painters of the time opted for azurite, a more economical but equally effective choice.
In the Amsterdam auction of May 16, 1696, Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid’ was sold for the considerable sum of 175 guilders, testifying to the extraordinary mastery of the artist and the intrinsic value of this work that continues to enchant us to this day.
Johannes Vermeer remains an enigma in the art world. Despite living a relatively short life, his work continues to captivate us centuries after his death.
Vermeer’s father came from a family of craftsmen, but decided to take a different path in life by becoming an innkeeper, a profitable trade for the time. His business flourished, and he joined the Guild of Saint Luke in Delft as an art dealer, organizing art sales in his inn. Upon his death, he passed his business on to his son Johannes Vermeer, also known as Jan, the second son and eldest male.
Vermeer is famous for his limited yet extraordinarily detailed artistic output. He painted slowly and with great precision. He created around 50 works during his lifetime, but only 34 have survived. He made short trips around Delft, and his works reflect the life and culture of 17th-century Holland, a period of prosperity and independence.
At the age of twenty, Vermeer married the young Catharina Bolnes, two years his senior and from a well-off family. The couple had a total of 15 children, although tragically, four of them died in infancy.
Vermeer’s life was tragically short. He died at the age of 43, leaving behind a widow and eleven children, all burdened by heavy debts. The financial situation became so dire that Catharina was forced to declare bankruptcy and even sell her husband’s paintings to cover the debts, including those owed to the baker.