Last night was yet another wonderful experience brought to one by the incessantly working Arts Society of Mallorca. This time it was the mysterious Johannes Vermeer who was on the menu, and what a riveting talk it was. The speaker, Jane Choy-Thurlow, made me feel I knew Vermeer despite little or nothing being known about him. He left no letters or other proof of his existence - if you don't count 15 children (!) and the in my view most exquisite paintings ever created. Only 42 are known to have survived, but how long it must have taken to paint each one. Small wonder he had no time for writing, however, letters are a recurring theme is his work. It's 'Girl reading letter by an open window' this and 'Irritated Lute Player being delivered Letter by sniggering Servant' that - correspondence must really have been all the rage in the Delft of the 1650s.
Everybody wants all these letters to be love letters (okay, so sometimes the title is The Love Letter) but I wonder. Some of these women don't seem very happy about receiving them. Perhaps it's the Dutch stoicism? Or perhaps Vermeer didn't pay his models enough? Also there are few if any eyebrows to be seen in his paintings. Did they shave them off or were they just naturally hairless? And the girl in the red hat, isn't it a boy? One of the many wonderful things about Vermeer is that he allows you to get absorbed in the paintings and guess and guess what's going on, creating your own story.
The very knowledgable Jane Choy-Thurlow
I have loved Vermeer ever since I went to the Rjikjiksjkisjmuseum in Amsterdam in the 1990s, or it could even have been when I lived in London in the 1980s that I first saw the light, the light, the wonderful light of a Dutch window shining on a jug of milk hald by a maid. So when my friend Eddie, secretary of the Arts Society of Mallorca, first mentioned that he was working day and night to get the best authorities on art to come to little Mallorca to speak, I decided to go to ONE talk, namely that of Vermeer.
But what do you know? Suddenly I had joined the Arts Society as a fully paid-up member. Yes! I'm a member of something! With a membership card! That is SO not me. But I have to say, joining the Society has been worth every penny. I'm all fired up now and ready to read my book about Vermeer that I bought in the Rijkjsksjsksjkmuseum in 1994...
Perhaps it's partly my love of Vermeer that also made me love China so much? There's something about the light, creating beauty out of the most prosaic scenes:
My niece Tyra won't mind that I publish this:
Join the Arts Society, people of Mallorca! You won't regret it.
Oh and the wine and tapas afterwards aren't bad. And you get to meet interesting people and hear interesting stories. And you can give me a lift home.