Category Archives: art

Dreaming about Vermeer’s Pearl Earring

Sometime around 1665, Johannes Vermeer painted his Girl with a Pearl Earring. It looks like this

Image result for Girl with Pearl Earring

The painting can be found in the Hague. How did it get there?

On the advice of Victor de Stuers, who for years tried to prevent Vermeer’s rare works from being sold to parties abroad, Arnoldus Andries des Tombe purchased the work at an auction in The Hague in 1881, for only two guilders with a thirty cents buyer’s premium (around €24 at current purchasing power[7]). At the time, it was in poor condition. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this and other paintings to the Mauritshuis in 1902

The word was restored in 1994, where it was found that the original background had faded from a lustrous green to black. With more modern equipment, the museum will take another close look at the painting. What will be discovered?

The final results will be published when the analysis is complete. Meanwhile, you can follow along with the research, which will be taking place 24 hours a day, not just during museum hours, on Abbie Vandivere’s outstanding blog. She posts daily updates on the work they’re doing, the tech they’re using, sharing her conservator’s eye view with fascinating photos of what she sees in the microscope, the painting’s history at the museum from acquisition through multiple restorations and tons more. If you’ve ever wanted to know what the job of painting conservator at one of the greatest museums in the world entails, then this blog will kick raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens right off the list and be your new favorite thing.

Hmmm … I like raindrops on roses!

But why did Vermeer create this master work? No one knows. And that makes the painting fertile ground for fiction.

Tracy Chevalier wrote a historical novel, also entitled Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), fictionalizing the circumstances of the painting’s creation. In the novel, Johannes Vermeer becomes close with a fictional servant named Griet (based on Chevalier’s close friend Georgia Kendall), whom he hires as an assistant and has sit for him as a painting model while wearing his wife’s pearl earrings.[13] The novel inspired a 2003 film[14] and 2008 play[15] of the same name. The 2003 film stars Scarlett Johansson as Griet, the girl with the pearl earring. Johansson was nominated for various awards including a Golden Globe Award[16] and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[17]

I have not seen that film! It goes on my list!


Thinking about the Assertive Quality of Modern Speech

The way we speak says a lot about our values. So, how do we speak these days? Consider this poem, recited during a Twitter advertisement, and posted by Fred Wilson on this blog.

The message is assertive. It asserts the power of the self when it is asserted. More specifically, the power of women when they assert that they are women.

I have nothing against this. To the contrary, I agree that we all should feel free to identify ourselves, be ourselves, and express ourselves. But there is something about the assertive quality of the delivery that pushes me away. That makes me feel a bit distant from the speaker.

In part it is because the poem does not ask me what I think. It tells me what the poet thinks. In other words, it does not celebrate connection. It celebrates an individual disconnected and dare I even say, self-absorbed?

Perhaps women deserve to be self-absorbed. But if they do, so too do I. So too, does everyone. And this may not be the type of life story that we want to share.

Or do we?

Thinking about TS Eliot’s Deeply Divided Nature

Peter Ackroyd is, perhaps, the perfect person to write a biography of TS Eliot  Ackroyd started his literary career more interested in poetry and literary criticism. But he started to write novels. He said

I enjoy it, I suppose, but I never thought I’d be a novelist. I never wanted to be a novelist. I can’t bear fiction. I hate it. It’s so untidy. When I was a young man I wanted to be a poet, then I wrote a critical book, and I don’t think I even read a novel till I was about 26 or 27

Now check out a closing thought that Ackroyd offers about Eliot

Throughout his life Eliot brought the anguish of his difficult and divided nature to the surface of his poetry, just as in oblique form he analyzed it in his prose. His predilection for order, as well as his susceptibility to disorder, were immense and in the jarring, crushing equilibrium between the two his life and work were formed. Both as a writer and as a man, his genius lay in his ability to resist the subversive tendencies of his personality by fashioning them into something larger than himself. His work represents the brilliant efflorescence of a dying culture: he pushed that culture together by an act of will, giving it a shape and context which sprang out of his own obsessions, and the certainties that he established were rhetorical certainties. In doing so, he became a symbol of the age, and his poetry became its echoing music – with its brooding grandeur as well as its bleakness, its plangency as well as its eclipses, its rhythmical strength as well as its theatrical equivocations.

Eliot had a certain loyalty to a grand cause, long ago lost, but not forgotten. He was certain of its grandeur.  Loyal to a grand lost cause, he was a wandering spirit, cast adrift without hope for a future that he could feel at home in. Again, certain. Now certain that he was lost.

In many ways,the future that came was indeed horrendous. and its horrendous nature might have pleased a part of Eliot’s divided character. But it was also magnificent in a way that Eliot would not be able to see. He was too much a man of his own internal struggles. Struggles that define him as a man of a particular era. Pre-modern?

Waiting for Plautilla Nelli’s Proud Return

If you are like me, you don’t know who Plautilla Nelli (1524 – 1588) was. She was a nun who lived in the Dominican convent of St. Catherine of Siena in Florence. And more than that, she was an accomplished and popular painter of her day.

… her Last Supper is considered one of the most important paintings by a woman in the history of art. Incidentally, no woman artist had ever painted this subject before Nelli.

Her Last Supper is very large, and until recently, was very badly in need of restoration. The good news is that pursuant to a crowd funding campaign, that restoration is underway. And the even better news is that it will be completed next year.  Here is how it looked before

Image result for Plautilla Nelli

Yes, yes. Yet another reason to visit Florence.

Here is the link for more on the restoration! Enjoy!

And here is more information on the painting itself. Quite fun!

Connecting with Artists Around the Globe

Kickstarter launched a new platform a while back called “Drip“. Not an auspicious name! But drip is in fact, pretty cool.  It enables you to directly connect with “creators”.

What is the big deal?  Well, if you are not yourself an artist, how many artists do you know and follow. If you are like me, the answer is few to none. Is that because artists are inherently unpleasant? (well, some are, but you can say that about any group of people) Are the boring? No. Do they have anything to offer? Perhaps!

So how do we start making better connections? Crowdfunding offers one possible way – to track what artists are offering online and back them when they inspire you. And you don’t need to plonk down a huge sum to do it.

So today, Fred Wilson recommended an artist that he has backed on Drip by the name of Shantell Martin.  here is her Drip page.  I thought her video was pretty cool. She gets the idea of bringing a community of followers together around a question that intrigues her as an artist. I may back it.

Will you?

Visiting Einstein and More …

The story is told by Marilyn Stafford and it starts off this way

In 1948, I was living in New York, hoping to break into acting. I’d been part of the Cleveland Play House’s first children’s group, along with Paul Newman and Joel Grey. Shirley Temple was famous and mothers all wanted their daughters to be stars.

One weekend, two friends making a documentary told me they were driving to New Jersey to interview Albert Einstein, hoping he’d say something against nuclear bombs. This was not long after Hiroshima. On the way, they gave me a 35mm camera and told me to take pictures while they filmed. I’d no idea what I was doing. I’d never used a 35mm before so they had to give me a quick lesson in the back of the car.

Einstein was very cordial, and casual

Image result for Marilyn Stafford

As it turned out, this was the start of Stafford’s career as a photographer. Of course,  she didn’t realize it at the time. She was still trying to be an actress. The story continues

A few months later, I went to Paris with a friend and worked as a singer at Chez Carrère, an exclusive dining club off the Champs Élysées. Edith Piaf would arrive with her huge entourage, which included Charles Aznavour, and we’d all go back to her house in the Bois de Boulogne for breakfast.

It was a fantastic time to be in Paris. I met so many people. One evening at Chez Carrère I was invited to join Eleanor Roosevelt’s table. Another time, Bing Crosby asked me to the races at Longchamp. It was the start of a great friendship.

Hmmm … Bing Crosby at the races? Dining with Eleanor Roosevelt?   Marilyn was having some fun! She then was mentored by Frank Capra and Henri Cartier-Bresson! Nice start!