Greetings once again my friends. It initially seemed like a good idea to wait until this is investigated further, but since I am already telling people about it, might as well post it.
This story begins with a crossroads at which I found myself whilst painting the Vermeer themed bike tunnel project in Delft. If one can not make out what something is, than that makes it difficult to paint your own version of it.
We begin with these figures which appear in the lower left hand corner of View of Delft by Vermeer:
My questions initially were:
Why is her face this weird color? (It looked like a ghost to me.)
Why is she frowning?
Is she holding a baby over her shoulder (not logical holding position for a baby)?
Those questions also lead to the obvious question, and that is: Did a restoration maybe change the face color and shape a bit?
I sent the Mauritshuis Museum (where the painting hangs) these questions. They were nice enough to send me their opinion plus this closeup:
There are still a number of varying opinions about the figures on the left.
This is what I used as a basis in the Vermeer tunnel, as it seemed the closest to what I saw myself, once led away from the “baby over the shoulder” idea. However my good people, this is not the B-I-G thing.
What is the B-I-G thing…
For me what gave it away was the horizontal highlights, which I could easily see, and the silver thing on the top.
Those clues, combined with his “gun holding stance” and the placement of the finger on the trigger area, makes it undeniable in my eyes. What is interesting though, is that not everyone can see it!!!!! Mainly only creative types can see it. Who does not see it: the person I emailed at the museum, the Vermeer expert I asked, the man from the newspaper, my client from Chicago. Who can see it: Almost every artist that I showed the close-up and told the story. The first thing I looked up was whether or not guns existed at that time and there were a whole slew of them. Delft was also known for its armory and weapon trade in the 17th century.
This is how I painted it so far (although might improve Pieter’s face a bit still). “Maria Thins” received a bit less of an ugly face in my version because the Vermeer version looks like a pig nose to me.
Almost as fast as I noticed the gun, the theoretical story behind this scene popped in my head almost just as fast.
Man in brown – Vermeer’s client – Pieter van Ruijven
Woman standing next to man in brown – His daughter or wife.
Man in black – Vermeer
Woman with the gray face – Maria Thins, clearly upset about the gun, and holding one of Vermeer’s eleven children.
Why was this painted? As a joke or to release some aggression. Or both.
According to EssentialVermeer.com, there are varying opinions as to date ranges for how long this painting took and most of them were relatively long ranges of time.
Clients can get testy when they have to wait exceedingly long for a commissioned painting to be finished. I currently have people who can’t believe I started the tunnel project in 2017 and it is still not done. Compared to how long Vermeer took, I’ve actually gotten a lot done in my humble opinion. His canvas was not 4 -5 km away from his home and pretty sure he never had to wear waders or wait until the weather permitted him to paint. As an artist, I can relate to this client/artist potential conflict, so for me that was why this story played out as it did in my imagination. I think there is enough room for one more theory about View of Delft and this is mine. (Another one I have heard twice now is that the gun shot the woman and the small figure is a spirit leaving the body.)
What the next steps are:
Go see View of Delft in person at the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague.
- Look up the two recommended technical art books that Mauritshuis recommended to investigate the sequence in which this was painted. Figure out if these figures were painted last, in which case my theory would hold a bit more weight. The books: Vermeer in het licht. Conservering, restauratie en onderzoek (J. Wadum en R. Hoppenbrouwers) en Bewaard voor de eeuwigheid. Conservering, restauratie en materiaaltechnisch onderzoek in het Mauritshuis (ed. E. Runia).
- Inspire Mauritshuis to utilize all their fancy equipment to figure out scientifically if there is a gun in his hand. I seriously see it.
Much looking forward to investigating this further in the near future. Could I really be so lucky to discover something new???
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Update – 21 aug., 2018