Friday, April 19, 2013

Return to the Land of Rain

We made it back to the Northwest and I'm finally beginning to wade out of the laundry and to find the beginnings of peace and order.

On the way north, our son arranged to take us to the de Young Museum in San Francisco for a major exhibition of Rembrandt and other Dutch master's work in engraving, etching and painting. The star of show, however, was The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer.

What a painting that is!

(Click on the image to get a larger image.)

It is much larger than I expected.

Displayed in a very ornate frame, it is about the same size as the Mona Lisa; something like 15+ x 18+ inches; nearly square.

The painting has been restored and does not have the crackalure shown in this image. It had been in very bad shape.

We were able to approach the painting up to about 4 feet and the light was such that, if you bowed down a bit, the glare revealed Vermeer's brush strokes.

The painting appears to be closely focused on the face and as you look out toward the edges, the focus seems to diminish and the brushstrokes are looser.

But more importantly, what struck me immediately that in most reproductions, the large black area on the left side is cropped. This is a shame because in doing so, the drama of this large black area is lost.  Remembering the period in which this was painted, the large black area is a shocking and radical statement for it's time.

The black works wonderfully because it offsets the brilliance of the eyes, lips, pearl and makes the slash of white collar even more intense. Also, cropping offsets the center of the painting. The true center is in the middle of the cheek just below the eye. The intense black also balances the all the busyness of the drapery and intensity of color.

The blue is beautiful. This repro does not do it justice. 

Nor does it show the nearly abstract treatment of the golden coat. You discover tiny seams and tiny pleats at the back of the shoulder that relates to the drapery of the yellow turban. The yellow/green shadows of the jacket pick up the nearly invisible green overlay of the black background.

The painting was better than I ever imagined. I looked at it for quite a long time.

Never in my lifetime thought I would have the privilege of standing in front of it and I'm so glad I did.

1 comment:

Linda Starr said...

Even this reproduction is lovely, and your description had me looking closer at many of the details; would have loved to go to the museum for this show, used to go to the old de Young when I lived in the bay area years ago.