One of the paybacks of 9+ years of making the Essential Vermeer website is the constant influx of correspondence. Scholars and specialists inform me of their thoughts and writings, museums directors about their exhibitions and web initiatives. I receive suggestions, constructive criticism, books, articles and even proposals for collaboration from all over the globe.
Alongside public figures, there are people whose names I did not know who generously express their opinions and raise questions on about every facet of Vermeer and web publishing one could imagine. They send me images of their own paintings or a dusty canvas found in the attic hoping it’s a Vermeer, posters, postcards, poetry and every now and then, a donation to keep the site going and growing.
The other day, a friend of the Essential Vermeer, Drew, established an absolute first. After some email correspondence about his Vermeer travels and the newly attributed Young Woman Seated at a Virginal which just popped up at the MET, Drew went to view the work directly. He pulled out his iPhone, snapped a digital photo and emailed it to me as he was standing in front of the painting.
Sometimes I wonder.
What would Vermeer have said about someone blasting an iPhone image of his painting instantaneously from one part of the globe to another he had never met? How would have he reacted if he new some of his 36 surviving works fly on jumbo-jets over oceans, mountain ranges and the Siberian tundra to be ogled by thousands of viewers who spend hours in line at exhibitions dedicated to his art in places called museums? What would have he though if he could thumb through the lavish, band-new Vermeer: The Complete Paintings written by Vermeer specialist Walter Liedtke?
In my opinion Vermeer would have taken in all the technology with an wide, wide grin. He would have loved the stuff. And he would have been delighted although sometimes puzzled at what has been written about himself and his work. Perhaps he would have needed a bit more time to comprehend how many people on the earth are knit together by his tiny canvases.