Saturday, November 17, 2007

Girl With a Pearl Earring

This was found here on the author, Tracy Chevalier's website about her book Girl With a Pearl Earring. I read the book a few years ago. I think it is very interesting to imagine the story behind the painting. Here is what Tracy says:

"Little is known about Vermeer. For a start, we don't know what he looked like. There are no confirmed images of him, though in one of his early works, The Procuress, a man looks out at the viewer from the edge of the scene, which in Dutch painting of the time was often the artist himself. In The Art of Painting a painter sits with his back to us. We don't know if it's meant to be Vermeer, but it gives us an idea of what an artist in his studio might have looked like.
The few known facts about Vermeer's life come from legal documents, of marriages and births and sales and debts. The son of innkeepers, he was born in 1632 in Delft, a town of about 25,000 people best known for its blue and white glazed earthenware. He spent all of his life there, though he may have done a six-year painting apprenticeship elsewhere, possibly in Amsterdam or Utrecht."

"In 1653 Vermeer converted to Catholicism and married Catharina Bolnes, a Catholic from a well-off bourgeois family. They had eleven surviving children. The family lived in the house of Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, in an area off the main Market Square known as Papists' Corner because of the concentration of Catholics living there. Only 20% of the population were Catholic; the rest were Protestant. Catholics were tolerated but barred from municipal functions and required to worship privately. There were two "hidden" churches in Delft, one right next door to Maria Thins' house."

The book was made into a movie. I have watched the movie. Colin Firth plays Vermeer and Scarlett Johannson is Griet. Tracy Chevalier had this to say about the film.
"It was strange too to see that my scribbling had spawned a whole industry of Vermeer boffins - there were reproductions of Vermeers and other Dutch paintings tacked up everywhere in the production offices, and books strewn about that I myself had read for research. I confess it was rather gratifying to have Colin Firth elbow someone out of the way in the set canteen so that he could sit next to me at lunch and grill me about Vermeer. Someone else also turned to me in the canteen and said, 'Do you realise that your idea is paying all these people's wages for two months?' Yes, surreal it was."

Here is an excerpt from the book:
He got another of the lion-head chairs and set it close to his easel but sideways so it faced the window. "Sit here."
"What do you want, sir?" I asked, sitting. I was puzzled--we never sat together. I shivered, although I was not cold.
"Don't talk." He opened a shutter so that the light fell directly on my face. "Look out the window." He sat down in
his chair by the easel. I gazed at the New Church tower and swallowed. I could feel my jaw tightening and my eyes
widening. "Now look at me." I turned my head and looked at him over my left shoulder. His eyes locked with mine.
I could think of nothing except how their grey was like the inside of an oyster shell. He seemed to be waiting for
something. My face began to strain with the fear that I was not giving him what he wanted. "Griet," he said softly.
It was all he had to say. My eyes filled with tears I did not shed. I knew now. "Yes. Don't move."
He was going to paint me.

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