A. Koussoulakou, E. Livieratos

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Faculty of Surveying Engineering, Thessaloniki, Greece


Cartography is often described as a combination of science and art and maps have always been regarded as the fusion of scientific and artistic efforts. The links of cartography and art are witnessed, among others, in maps depicted in paintings of great masters, such as the Dutch painters of the 17th century, where both cartography and art were flourishing. A representative example is Johannes Vermeer; in his painting Officer and laughing girl (~1660) an officer and a young girl are placed in an interior, sitting at a table in front of a window. On the wall behind the girl a large map is hanging, occupying a large part of the painting. The map on the painting depicts part of the Netherlands; its remarkable similarity with the original topographic map of its time (~1620) makes comparison a real challenge.

Such a comparison between the painted map and the original topographic map from 1620 is nowadays made much easier than in the past with the tools offered by the new digital processing and visualization technologies. A typical example concerning the study of old maps is the deformation analysis of those maps. Such an analysis was carried out, for the two maps mentioned before (i.e. the map on the painting and its original -old- topographic counterpart). In a previous original work, a number of transformations were performed for the comparison of the two maps and the results of these transformations were visualized through animations for a more effective presentation of the results. Apart from the analytical and digital component of the process, an interesting result is this visual representation of the transformation (dynamic morphing) from one map to the other. This revealed some remarkable indications about the method followed by the artist (use of the camera obscura).

Since the initial set of transformations indicated the use of a projective device, the continuation of the research presented here, concerns a further refinement of the process attempting to interpret the presence of a number of remaining displacements (residuals) and hence confirm in a more strict way the speculated use of the camera obscura. This is done by applying different algorithms within the best fitting process, which account for the presence of lenses in the camera obscura device. The results are again shown on animated comparisons of the respective maps.