An iPhoned Vermeer

March 29th, 2009

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.

3 Responses to “An iPhoned Vermeer”

  1. ARech

    Drew was lucky enough that the MET seems still to allow photographing, although the cell-phone/iPhone-army is very annoying both for visitors who want to study the paintings in relative silence (if ever possible today) and even more for the paintings which are not able to defend themselves.

    If the ‘Young Woman Seated at a Virginal’ would have been displayed in the Mauritshuis or the Rijksmuseum, he wouldn’t have been so lucky, as photographing is prohibited there, like in many European museums, which, for the sake of the paintings’ security, is understandable, though sometimes hard to accept.

    But yesterday in the Rijksmuseum, as I visited the ‘Woman Holding a Balance’, which, after absent from Amsterdam for ca. 120 years, came back for a 3-months-visit, I realised that not all visitors obeyed this prohibition, as some took shots even with flash. Normally I strictly observe every prohibition, but this time, with this unique reunion of three Vermeers once united in the same collection in front of me, I – in the sad moment of saying good-bye for good – forgot all my principles and took one short shot to memorize this view (luckily it came out not too bad). Although the guard came immediately (although failed to recognize several cases of photographing before) I at the end felt no guilt this time as this view was too precious.

    I could imagine quite well that Vermeer, with his far-reaching interest in the sciences of his time, would certainly have made use of all these modern utilities, like digital camera, computer, internet, maybe an iPhone. If he would have traveled as much and as far as his paintings do today, is rather unlikely, as his various duties, both in public and private (regarding his large family), wouldn’t simply get him the necessary time to do so.

    But there is absolutely no doubt, that he would have the sincerest appreciation for the Essential Vermeer as well as for the outstanding masterpieces of its director.


  2. Old-Nail

    I believe this work to be one by Han Van Meegeren.

  3. chamilia

    i also would think it was done by can meegreren.

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