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Jun 5, 2008


Here is another Vermeer painting. Another women wearing that  pearl earring (see previous blog) and holding up a pearl necklace (I think - pls correct me if I'm wrong). Her eyes are turned towards the available light source and she appears absentminded.

Earlier I said (in a comment on Nanette's page) that the subject was concerned with vanity, compared to the Madonna portrait we were discussing. I have recently read that pearls were symbolicaly equated with vanity so tried to make that a fit, but I've decided that wasn't the case.

I'm sure the subject was more likely preoccupied with banal thoughts, such as, "When will Johannes finish? I have to go to the market, get the washing off the line, and answer some letters..."

I have another idea that Vermeer was obsessed with the light from that window, although it probably wasn't the same room all the time. Ok it wasn't an original idea. But I like to think of Vermeer sitting like a spider in a web, canvas, easel and paints at the ready, waiting for some poor unsuspecting female to wonder in, preferably wearing pearl earrings.

I am joking but at the same time this imagined attitude of Vermeer's strikes home. I was like that before I became too incapacitated to paint or draw anymore. I had a favourite room to paint in and a choice of two windows that shed exquisite light onto sitters and still life arrangements. The excitement, that urgent need to get what I was seeing onto paper, with inks, watercolours, crayons...  I would work feverishly and get several sketches started in one sitting.

I can't paint or draw these days, but I continue to 'see' as an artist. Something will catch my eye, and I'll analyse it, enjoy an unusual juxtaposition of colours, shapes, and so on. Most of the time this is enough to satisfy me, but there are those bleak times I yearn to have paint and drawing gear in my hands, translating whatever had stolen my attention ... but that leads nowhere good...

I can thank my Buddhist teachers for showing me the difference between wrongly perceived happiness and true happiness. Most importantly they reveal to us naive creatures that the longing for the causes of temporary or false happiness leads to the absolute opposite. Wretchedness. Bitterness. Jealousy.

Much-welcomed comment from Nanette:

StarsButterfliesGold Notes Nanette D.
Jenny, I would so love you to read that book I mentioned. "Girl With A Pearl Earing" by Tracy Chavalier. There is so much about how Vermeer worked, and about this room, and how he fixed his light, and objects on the table and around. I think you're right about his obssession with light and color. According to the book, he made his own colors to paint -- out of herbs.

Some Vermeer videos I need to watch...

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Posted: Jun 5, 2008 5:02am
Jun 2, 2008

The Girl with a Pearl Earring
painted by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, 1665
The following is adapted from an in-depth study by Jonathan Janson

The Girl with a Pearl Earring is universally recognized as one of Johannes Vermeer's absolute masterworks

What is it about the Pearl?

The young girl’s tear drop pearl hangs freely and motionless, “caught within a pool of recessive space.”

Its form and substance are essentially defined by the thick white fleck of impasto which registers the same beams of light which rake across the girl’s face and turban and by the soft reflection that has gather up some of the light cast off by the intensely light band of the white collar below.

The ovoid shape conveys the “experience of weight and volume,” 
qualities which are less appreciable in a spherical formed pearl.

It is likely that a pearl of such dimension and form did not exist -the artist had either represented an artificial one or that he deliberately exaggerated its dimensions [or both].

Vermeer's women are often associated with pearls, so much that his oeuvre itself has become synonymous with the pearl.

In 1908 Jan Veth said about Girl with a Pearl Earring: "More than with any other VEREMEER one could say that it looks as if it were blended from the dust of crushed pearls."

Pearls in the Seventeenth-Century

In C17th pearls were probably an extremely important status symbol.

"In 1660 Samuel Pepys (an English diarist) paid 4 1/2 pounds for a pearl necklace, and in 1666 he paid 80 pounds for another, which at the time amounted to about 45 and 800 guilders respectively." 

"Pearls are linked with vanity but also with virginity... The most beautiful pearl in Vermeer's work is undoubtedly that worn by the Girl with a Pearl Earring - a massive creation of highlights and shadows and obscure shadows..... Artificial pearls were invented by M. Jacquin in France around this time, thin spheres of glass filled with l'essence d'orient, a preparation made of white wax and silvery scales of a river fish called ablette, or bleak, but cultured pearls were also coming in from Venice. This girl of Vermeer's seems to be wearing a glass "drop earring" which has been varnished to look like an immense pearl......Vermeer's pearl is probably doubly artificial, having been enlarged to such a size by the painter's imagination and desire to adorn the girl with something spectacular." 

Vermeer's Pearls

The drop, or tear shaped pearl seen in the Girl with a Pearl Earring, was portrayed in 8 other canvases by Vermeer:

Woman with a Pearl Necklace, Woman with a Lute, The Concert, A Lady Writing, Girl with a Red Hat, A Study of a Young Woman, Mistress and Her Maid, and Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid.

All of these pictures date from the mid 1660s on.

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Posted: Jun 2, 2008 5:53am
May 28, 2008

comparing eye placement in portraiture, often 1 eye is on centre vertical.


I found this conjecture interesting. It seems that many portraits place one eye on the vertical centre line in the composition.

I came across it in this
art blogChristopher W. Tyler, of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco looked at 282 artists' works with this theory in mind. 

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Posted: May 28, 2008 12:30am


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Jenny Dooley
, 3, 2 children
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