Classical Modern: Understanding Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons

Michael Jackson and Bubbles

Michael Jackson and Bubbles, by Jeff Koons, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/187

Parthenon figureReclining Dionysus sculpture on the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Athens. Greece.

(A picture I took when I visited Athens in 2011)

The Asian Art Museum (in San Francisco) recently had a joint exhibition with SFMOMA.  The latter is under renovation, and so SFMOMA is “on the go”.  As I work in the Civic Center area, I was able to visit this exhibition a few times at lunch with a number of colleagues there.

The title of this Exhibition was called GORGEOUS! This was on the AAM website:

 “What’s “gorgeous” to you? There’s often a fine line between attraction and repulsion, but this summer at the Asian Art Museum, we’re drawing no lines at all.

Gorgeous presents 72 uniquely stunning artworks drawn from the collections of the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Spanning over 2,200 years and dozens of cultures, these artworks are organized in an attempt to shift the focus from historical and cultural contexts, emphasizing instead the unique ways each work announces itself or solicits a viewer’s attention.”

Among the exhibits were “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” by Jeff Koons, and the “infamous” “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp.  As I am also a member of SFMOMA, I have seen most of the exhibits at SFMOMA.  But to see them in this context, standing side by side with another ancient art object, was not too often.  I enjoyed this exhibition very much, and all my colleagues that I brought over concluded that they are indeed “Gorgeous”.  The show ended last week.  I like the show and the docent’s guided tour which was very helpful stimulating us to think and to see these art objects in different lights.

Among these exhibits, the sculpture “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” was one of the most favorite among the visitors .  Many of my friends took pictures with the sculpture.  At that time, I just glanced at it and took pictures for them, but never thought of anything more than the gold and white, the pop star and his chimpanzee. I did not bother to find out more about this piece, and just regarded it as one of those expensive arts because of the famous pop star and creative artist.  Well, I was quite ignorant.

Today, this sculpture was brought to my attention again because a fellow blogger Artdone wrote a post about Jeff Koons and an exhibition at the Whitney Museum. Out of curiosity, I looked up a few things from the internet and suddenly became “enlightened” by an academic article written in 2002 by Susan Cameron.  I was so inspired by her writing that I suddenly realized that I saw “it” before.  It was in Athens!  Modern art in Athens?  I must be crazy.  Please hold on.  Before we talk about this interesting article, let me find out a bit of the history and information about this sculpture.

SFMOMA has an interactive site  and a YouTube video.  Check them out.

 

 

 

Other background information from Wikipedia site is also helpful: “Michael Jackson and Bubbles is a porcelain sculpture (42 x 70.5 x 32.5 in) by the American artist Jeff Koons. It was created in 1988 within the framework of his Banality series.”

“Three of the Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculptures were made. One was sold at Sotheby’s on 15 May 2001, when it was auctioned off to the record price of 5.6 million dollars.[1] The artist’s proof is owned by the Broad Art Foundation of businessman and art collector Eli Broad and is displayed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The two other versions are in Athens and in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[4]

I saw two of them : in SF MOMA and LACMA.  Where is it in Athens? So I searched around but I couldn’t find it online.  My conclusion is that it is not in any museum or public display.  But I visited Athens before…an instinct told me to look up my pictures.  Here it is !  I am so happy.  It was the Reclining Dionysus sculpture on the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Athens. Greece, a picture I took when I visited Athens in 2011.  How does this photo relate to this sculpture?

Let us now come back to the article written by Susan Cameron, May 2002, SURJ, Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal.  She noticed that curators only wrote useful information about the sculpture, but it does not mention the obvious iconography link to “Dionysus”.  She thought that Koons crossed the traditions of ancient Greek cult statues at the Parthenon, with pop culture.

Well, Who is Dionysus?

“He was the god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. He invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes. He has a dual nature. On the one hand bringing joy and divine ecstasy. On the other brutal, unthinking, rage. Thus, reflecting both sides of wines nature.  Dionysus can drive a man mad. No normal fetters can hold him or his followers.”

Was that what Jeff Koons had in  mind when he created this sculpture?  Well, the viewer completes the art (Marcel Duchamp). What do you think?

How David Hockney, sees the world, with the use of technology

My Notebook

David Hockney: A Bigger Exibition

San Franciscans are indeed blessed with many opportunities of appreciating interesting art shows.  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco  (de Young Museum) ‘s “David Hockney, a Bigger Exhibition” is closing today, January 21, 2014. I finally had the chance to see it yesterday.  David Hockney is one of the best known living artists, renowned for his mastery of drawing, oil painting, printmaking, art design, photo collage, and the use of camera and video-making, with the help of technology.

I had seen a PBS interview of David Hockney back in October, 2013 when the show just began. I would like to share with you this video from PBS to get an overview of this exhibition and then two articles of art review…

View original post 1,712 more words

Year End With Christina

This is my friend Rebecca’s recording of her own reading of this poem: winter, My Secret by Christina Rossetti. It is so beautiful that I don’t want to lose it. Thank you, Rebecca. Very well done!

Winter, My Secret, by Christina Rosserri

Picasso’s Three Paintings of Women in MOMA

imageThis was my fourth visit to MOMA, on October 7, 2013.  I went with my family to Eastern Europe for two weeks and then ended in New York City where we stayed for a few days.  We shopped, ate (a lot) and visited the museums.  We only managed to visit two museums this time:  MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Both are my favorite museums.

There were two new “discoveries” (to me) when we visited MOMA this time. When we arrived, the line to buy tickets was so long that we nearly wanted to quit. luckily, my sister from Canada is a volunteer in a museum.  I went forward to ask the lady at the entrance.  She said, ” Go ahead to the Information Desk”. There we went.  She showed her identity card, and in a second she got two free tickets!  Not only were we admitted free, we did not have to wait in line for one hour!  What a pleasant surprise!  I have to thank my sister for bringing her card and myself for having the courage to ask. Volunteering is a civic engagement and should be considered by everyone.  I am not aware of this kind of benefits till that day.  How encouraging!

My second “discovery”:  I found out that there is a MOMA app on my iPhone, which includes many functions.  It does not only function as an audio-guide like the other audio-guide that you rent from the museums.  It also has a new feature called MOMA Snaps.  You can snap a picture of the beautiful artwork and create a postcard with the name of MOMA.

This is the first time I took pictures of paintings in a museum.  I told myself:  MOMA asked me to do that, via the app!  What a change of approach!  I never dared raise my camera in a museum although lots of tourists did that.  I did not do very well in manipulating the app.  Please disregard the irregularities.

These are three paintings of Picasso that I really like.  I took the photos and use the app to create a post-card like image.

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Pablo Picasso, The Three women at the Spring, 1921.

The first painting is called The Three women at the Spring, 1921.You may like to check the MOMA website for more detailed information about this painting.

 http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79762

 Audio Program excerpt

“February 13 – May 19, 2003“Curator, Kirk Varnedoe: When you look at Picasso’s Three Women at the Spring this represents the embodiment of what one calls the return to order—the idea that after World War I, French society wanted to reestablish its roots with the grand tradition and a kind of solid, reassuring, sculptural vision of the human figure rooted in classicism. It was an art of reassurance, of regrounding after the experimentation of the teens. And yet when you look at this picture, it’s not really a conservative picture—the tubular nature of the arms, the large abstract rhythms of the figures are very much a legacy of his more radical work.

Remember again that this is painted exactly in the same summer that he paints The Three Musicians. Unlike Matisse, Picasso is happy working in two extremes virtually simultaneously, painting a picture of strong Cubist abstraction on the one hand,and seemingly full bodied sculptural realism on the other.”

Pablo Picasso, The Three women at the Spring, 1921.

image

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Pablo Picasso.  Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon, Paris, June-July, 1907.

The second  painting is called  Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon.  It is a significant piece painted by Picasso during his African Influenced Period, which marked the beginning of Cubism, a very important art movement.  The MOMA mobile website and the wiki site  have some introductory descriptions which are very helpful to have some basic idea about this painting.

http://www.moma.org/m#object_79766

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Demoiselles_d%27Avignon

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon, and originally titled The Brothel of Avignon)[2] is a large oil painting created in 1907 by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). The work portrays five nude femaleprostitutes from a brothel on Carrer d’Avinyó (Avinyó Street) in Barcelona. Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine. The women appear as slightly menacing and rendered with angular and disjointed body shapes. Two are shown with African mask-likefaces and three more with faces in the Iberian style of Picasso’s native Spain, giving them a savage aura. In this adaptation of Primitivism and abandonment ofperspective in favor of a flat, two-dimensional picture plane, Picasso makes a radical departure from traditional European painting. The work is widely considered to be seminal in the early development of both cubism and modern artDemoiselles was revolutionary and controversial, and led to wide anger and disagreement, even amongst his closest associates and friends.”

 I also found the  information on wiki very helpful to understand the influence of El Grecco ( The Opening of the Fifth Seal, (Apocalyptic Vision of Saint John) (1608–1614). ) has been suggested as a source of inspiration for Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon.) and Cezanne (Paul Cézanne‘s Les Grandes Baigneuses 1906, Philadelphia Museum of Art) is generally believed to be a likely inspiration for Les Demoiselles).

 Pablo Picasso.  Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon, Paris, June-July, 1907.

image

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Pablo Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror, 1932.

The third painting is called “Girl Before a Mirror”, 1932. The model was Picasso’s young mistress Marie-Therese Walker.

http://www.moma.org/m#object_78311

Curator Emeritus, John Elderfield said in the Audio Program, 2008, “Of all the women that Picasso painted, I think the images of Marie-Therese Walter are the most extraordinary.”   I do agree with him.  Whether you like this painting or not, it is very special!

In fact, I found this article very interesting:

http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/12/13/picassos-girl-before-a-mirror-the-science-behind-art-history

” In Picasso: Girl before a Mirror,a new volume in the MoMA One on One series, curator Anne Umland uses an X-ray of the Cubist painting to uncover a new layer for interpretation.              

  X-ray of Girl before a Mirror, Taken in 2011

The painting, one of the most extraordinary works by Pablo Picasso in the Museum’s collection, is an unusual and captivating take on the traditional artistic theme of a woman looking into a mirror. The X-ray reveals that Picasso had originally portrayed the girl’s body in a far more naturalistic way, with curved hips and with her back toward the viewer. Why then did he opt to transform her into the decidedly geometric figure we see in the final product? The following comment, made by the artist himself, may shed some light on his methodology: “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something.” His changes sever any lingering connection with observed reality and bring her into Picasso’s shape-shifting world, her body now made of triangles and circles, allowing simultaneous back and side views.

This quite literal “behind-the-scenes” glance into Picasso’s process is but one of the many ways that the book, like others in the One on One series, offers a unique and comprehensive understanding of one of the most beloved works in MoMA’s collection.”                                                           

Pablo Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror, 1932.

image

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Which of these three paintings I like most?  To me, the subject matter is very important when I appreciate art.  As Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon is about prostitutes, and about cubism, which is not my most favorite period in Picasso’s paintings.

I am more interested in the Three women at the Spring.  If you recall some time ago on this blog, I discussed about another painting of Picasso:

Pablo Picasso
Mother and Child, 1921, The Art Institute of Chicago

http://speakingabosuttravel.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/the-yellow-river-mother-cco,-in-lanzhou-china-and-picassos-mother-and-child-painting-in-the-art-institute-of-chicago/

As to the Girl painting,  The love affair between this young girl and the famous artist, is intriguing, like reading a novel.  However what is most interesting to me about this painting is the analysis:  Did the artist see through this girl?  And what did he see?

The Tales of Hoffmann – San Francisco Opera – Jacques Offenbach – from “Barcarolle” to “Can Can”

The Summer Opera season has just started in  SF Opera.   Tonight we watched The Tales of Hoffmann.  The music, the singing, the costume, the set, were all beautiful.  This is the trailer from SF Opera.

The Tales of Hoffmann Trailer from San Francisco Opera

Jacques Offenbach, the Composer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Offenbach

Les contes d’Hoffmann (in English: The Tales of Hoffmann) is an opera by Jacques Offenbach. It was first performed in Paris, at the Opéra-Comique, on February 10, 1881.

The libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann. E.T.A. Hoffmann himself is a character in the opera just as he often is in his stories. The stories upon which the opera is based are Der Sandmann,Rath Krespel, and Das verlorene Spiegelbild.

The opera contains a prologue, three acts and an epilogue. Offenbach did not live to see his opera performed, since he died on October 5, 1880, just over four months before its premiere. Before his death, Offenbach had completed the piano score and orchestrated the prologue and the first act. Since he did not entirely finish the writing, many different versions of this opera emerged, some bearing little resemblance to the original work. The version performed at the opera’s premiere was that by Ernest Guiraud, who completed Offenbach’s scoring and wrote the recitatives.

 Barcarolle —  the most famous aria

The most famous aria from the opera is the “Barcarolle” (Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour), which is performed in Act 2. Curiously, the aria was not written by Offenbach with Les Contes d’Hoffmann in mind. He wrote it as a ghost-song in the opera Les fées du Rhin (which premiered in Vienna on February 8, 1864 as Die Rheinnixen). Offenbach died with Les contes d’Hoffmann unfinished.

Ernest Guiraud completed the scoring and wrote the recitatives for the premiere. He also incorporated this excerpt from one of Offenbach’s earlier, long-forgotten operas into the new opera.

The Barcarolle has been incorporated into many movies including Life Is Beautiful and Titanic.

The most famous aria Barcarolle  ….sound familiar?   Yes, we all played it when we were children!  It is beautiful and has different ways of presentation.   I found this one played with mandolins, guitar, double bass and piano.  Enjoy!

Barcarolle, J.Offenbach, ATTIKA “Musica Poetica” official version

 “Barcarolle” was originally composed for soprano.  Let us hear these beautiful voices:

Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca sing “Barcarolle”

Finally, please don’t forget, that Offenbach has another very popular piece widely used in movies all over the world: Can Can.  This video uses the images from the artist Toulouse-Lautrec  who is famous for his Moulin Rouge paintings.  Enjoy!

French CanCan – Jacques Offenbach (Orphée aux Enfers)

I would like to end this post with a very interesting quote from Thomas May who wrote in the program book for SF Opera.  He said that Hoffman has become Offenbach’s signature work but it has actually made a big shift of his style from light-hearted comedy. He quoted David Littlejohn’s comments: “as if the world’s most popular comedian had a try at playing Hamlet just before he died, and pulled it off successfully.”

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words – “Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and “Who is cooking for dinner tonight?”

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Photo Credit Courtesy of Michelle Weber

In response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words, this is a story about a man and a woman.  The title of the story is:

“Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and

“Who is cooking for dinner tonight?”

Liz and Ed met at the Best Culinary Academy.  Before Liz enrolled in the Academy, she was an A+ high school senior.  Instead of going into a regular college like the University of California system, she wanted to be a chef.  She has been a big fan of the Food Network, and never missed an Iron Chef show.  Her favorite Chef is Bobby Flay.

“Wow, if I become a chef and work in Bobby Flay’s kitchen,….not only will I be able to learn more from this celebrity chef, I may one day become….”  , Liz thought.

Ed, on the other hand,  received a degree in culinary arts and was a member of the fifth graduating class of the French Culinary Institute.  Bobby was on the first graduating class.   Ed  and Bobby were alums but they did not know each other.  Ed later became a stock broker while Bobby went back to the kitchen after having been tired of the stockbroker work.  Three years later, Ed did the same thing as Bobby.  He was tired to be a stockbroker and thought he would be a better chef than a stockbroker.  By that time, Bobby had already become famous and was an iron chef on the Food Network show.  Ed was not as fortunate.  He went on and became a teacher at the California Culinary Academy.  Here, he met Liz.

Love at first sight?  Not at all.  Ed did not like women who aspired to become a chef.   He told himself:  “Never marry a woman chef.  She cannot even cook for her husband.  And I am not going to cook for my wife!”   Well, see what happened.

The Food Network has a new show named “You think you can cook?”.   Although Ed is already a culinary teacher, he did not have experience working in a kitchen on television.  He went to consult with his boss Ron, a senior executive of the Academy.  Ron said, ” Get a good sous-chef to help you.”  Ed did have a sous-chef, but he had to take care of  family business, and did not have time to participate in the TV show”.  After much consideration Ed approached Liz who was one of her best students.

“Are you interested in assisting me in the next cooking show?  It’s Bobby Flay’s show, and we will be able to meet with him.”

“What?  Bobby Flay?  Of course.  I would love to be your show-partner”.

So Ed and Liz worked together and experimented with a number of recipes with different ingredients.  The day of the show came.  They went to the studio.  Here they met Bobby Flay.  Nobody knew that this was a special show.  Bobby Flay was  on a secret mission: to challenge the contestants in different kinds of cooking – BBQ’s, Pies, Pizza, desserts and more.  Ed and Liz and other contestants thought that they were going to the studio to shoot their profile for the show.  What they did not know was that Bobby dropped by for a surprise visit and challenged them to an unexpected “cook-off”.

In the episode where Ed and Liz were the contestants, Bobby dropped by Ed’s house without announcement.  He asked Ed and Liz to prepare a dinner with a special ingredient:  mango!  Ed remembered one of Bobby’s popular recipes

“Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango Cilantro Salsa”.

“Hey, Liz.  I have an idea.  Since we live in San Francisco, let us design a recipe that reflects the diversity of the population here.

The special ingredient “mango” is now a starring of a new recipe:  it is called “eat mango like a lady or gentleman”, and “fried rice with chicken and mango”  which has an Asian flavor but a Western approach.  How did these two special dishes fare?  Well, Bobby liked them.  Ed and Liz won!  Since then, they made lots of shows together.

Coming soon!

 “Who is coming for dinner tonight?” and a companion show ” Who is cooking tonight?”

What happened then?  Ed and Liz fell in love.   They then got married and were happily ever after.  What is their favorite dish that they eat at home? ” Fried Rice with Mango and Chicken”.  This is not bad, ladies and gentlemen!  Try a bite.  Yum, Yum!  But then who is cooking at home?  Who knows, and who cares?

If you are interested in Ed and Liz’s favorite dish, here’s the recipe : Fried Rice with Mango and Chicken

By the way, their newest show has become the most popular one on Food Network.  Check it out: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Do you know how to eat mango like a lady or a gentleman?”

~ The End~

Disclaimer:

The names of the fictional characters in this story are all fictions, with no true information or references to any persons.

Credit

The Chefs picture:  Photo credit courtesy of Michelle Weber

Source of information about Bobby Flay’s background and shows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Flay

The fictional food show’s title “you think you can cook” is inspired by Rachael Ray’s show “so  you think you can cook”.

http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/segments/view/so-you-think-you-can-cook/

The fictional “secret mission” of Bobby Flay’s show is inspired by his show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” http://www.foodnetwork.com/throwdown-with-bobby-flay/index.html

Copyright

The story, the fictional titles of the TV food shows “Who is coming for dinner tonight” and “Who is cooking tonight”, and “Ladies and Gentlemen: do you know how to eat mango like a lady or a gentleman?”, the  photos of the two dishes and recipes, “Fried rice with chicken and mango” and ‘ladies and gentlemen…” are properties of the author of this story~©DenRecipe

Girl with a Pearl Earring – Last week in de Young Museum, San Francisco

 We finally got to see this famous painting at de Young Museum today.  I have delayed this visit due to many reasons:  too busy at work and at home; had a vacation in april; waiting for our cousins to come so that we can all go together…

Like the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at Asian Art Museum, which will end tomorrow, May 27, this exhibition is ending this week next Sunday, June 2.  I told myself:  I cannot miss these two exhibitions.  I need to give some priorities to satisfy my interests in art.   Also,  the SFMOMA will  be closed for two years after June 2.  I can’t afford NOT to see this Girl with a Pearl Earring.  Since this is the closing week, there were many visitors.  The line to buy tickets was very long.  As a member, I already reserved the tickets, but still had to wait in a shorter line.

girl_with_a_pearl_earring

This is from the museum website  “The exhibition features 35 paintings representing the range of subject matter and technique characteristic of 17th-century painting in the Dutch Republic. Among the works traveling to the United States is the Mauritshius’ celebrated masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and the enchanting The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. The painting Vase of Flowers by the gifted Rachel Ruysch, one of the few female painters of the Dutch Golden Age, is being restored especially for the American tour.”

I had actually seen most of the other paintings before but my primary interest today is to discuss the “Girl with a Pearl Earring”.  There are so many written reviews on this painting since the release of the Movie in 2003.  I still remember after the movie was released, I went to NYC for a short trip and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has most of Vermeer’s paintings.  In one of the galleries where Vermeer’s paintings were housed, a big group of Japanese tourists took turns to take picture with a very small Vermeer’s painting.

According to a  New York Time post,  “The No. 1 question from visitors to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, according to Emilie Gordenker, is “Where is ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’?” “…this beloved Vermeer painting, the Dutch Mona Lisa, as it has been called, doesn’t reside at the national Rijksmuseum at all but some 30 miles down the road in the lesser-known Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, in The Hague.”  Although this “Dutch Mona Lisa” painting has been very popular for several paintings, it has rose to fame of a “superstar status” after the movie was released.

The novel and the movie are definitely sensational.  What is really behind this beautiful painting?  Who is this young lady?  There is no answer so far.  There is very limited information about Vermeer, and even less about the models.

According to the Guardian, “Exactly why the painting is the source of such fascination is difficult to explain, since very little is known about the painter and even less about his subject. Experts say the mystery is part of its allure. “Sometimes the questions are more intriguing because they can’t be answered,” Melissa Buron, assistant curator of the exhibition at the de Young museum told The Wall Street Journal. “Who was she? What was she thinking? What was her relationship with Vermeer? The mystery is part of its popularity.”

Let us leave the mystery behind for a while, and see if there are pieces of more interesting information about the painting itself.  I found this website essentialvermeer.com very helpful.  I selected a few topics of my interest here.  The following are all extracted from:

 www.essentialvermeer.com

Man in a Turban
Jan van Eyck
1433
25,5 x 19 cm
National Gallery, London

The Turkish Turban in European painting:

“The appearance of the young girl’s turban within the context of Vermeer’s seemingly quintessential Dutch oeuvre should not come as a complete surprise. Other objects of “Turkish” origin may be associated with the painter. Some of the carpets which appear as table coverings in his interiors (contemporary painters rarely represented these precious imports lying on the ground) are of Turkish origin. They must have been appreciated for their evocative floral motifs and the large mass of warm red color which enlivened the otherwise geometrical and cold interiors.

However, we must not believe that anything called “Turkish” in contemporary accounts really came from that country. The term was loosely used to describe exotic imported objects which were much in vogue. In the inventory (29 February, 1676) taken shortly after the artist’s death we find listed among other things: “a Turkish mantle of the aforesaid Sr. Vermeer,” “a pair of Turkish trousers” and “a black Turkish mantle” all in the “great hallway” of his house. Some scholars have suggested that the two tronies in “Turkish dress” found in the kitchen could possibly have been by Vermeer’s hand.”

Who posed for the painting?

“A careful consideration of the Girl with Pearl Earring gives rise to the question of how far the painting is to be taken as a portrait. P. T. A. Swillens, who compiled the first exhaustive study of the artist’s life and work in 1950, believed that one of the most important characteristics of a 17th-century portrait was its likeness and although we can no longer judge of this anymore, the face would not be called a beauty in an aesthetic sense. Swillens writes that Vermeer made no attempt to idealize her.

Contemporary scholars are not in agreement on the subject. According to Arthur Wheelock the painting is an “idealized study” which reveals Vermeer’s “classical tendencies.”

Not a single sitter in Vermeer’s extant paintings has ever been identified, including the young girl in the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Many critics believe that she may have been Vermeer’s first daughter, Maria who would have been about 12 or 13 years old in 1665-1667, the dating scholars have assigned to the painting. However, this painting was certainly not a portrait in the 17th-century sense of the term, but rather a tronie. In any case, she resembles the model in Vermeer’s Art of Painting(see above).”

Inspired by an Italian painting?

Beatrice Cenci
attributed to Guido Reni
1599
64,5 x 49 cm
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Roma

“Nonetheless, Vermeer scholars have proposed a wide variety of Dutch and foreign models including, traditionally, theBeatrice Cenci by the Italian painter Guido Reni.* While such a connection may appear far fetched, Vermeer certainly knew the Beatrice Cenci story which had captured Europe’s collective imagination. He could have easily seen one of the many copies of Reni’s original or engravings which circulated throughout Europe.

Beatrice, the daughter of the rich and powerful Francesco Cenci, suffered from her father’s mistreatment. Violent and dissolute, he imprisoned Beatrice and her stepmother in the Castle of Petrella Salto, near Rieti. With the blessing of her stepmother and two brothers, all of whom shared her exasperation at his continued abuse, Beatrice murdered her father in 1598. She was apprehended and, after a trial that riveted the attention of the citizens of Rome, condemned to death at the order of Pope Clement VIII, who may have been motivated by the hope of confiscating the assets of the family. In the presence of an enormous crowd, Beatrice was decapitated in the Ponte Sant’Angelo in September of 1599, instantly becoming a symbol of innocence oppressed.

It has been hypothesized that the great Italian painter Caravaggio was present at the decapitation and was inspired to paint his Judith Cutting off the Head ofHolofernes. The precise and realistic rendering of Caravaggio’s scene, anatomically and physiologically correct to the minutest details, presupposes the artist’s observation of a real decapitation.

The influential Vermeer writer Lawrence Gowing had proposed the influence of Jan Scorel’s female portraits. The Scorel and Reni influences have been largely set aside in favor of somewhat less exotic connections with the Dutch painter Michiel Sweerts.

* While the Beatrice Cenci is traditionally attributed to Reni, its poor quality in comparison to other works of the master has led many critics to reject it as an autograph work. Instead, it could be by a painter in the immediate circle of Reni, possibly Elisabetta Sirani, who is known for rendering the master’s models in abbreviated and reduced form.”

How big is this painting?

As this painting is so small, and there were too many visitors crowding round the painting, I only stayed in front of the painting for a while.  What did I see and what did I think about?  I think the lighting and shadows painted here have particularly highlighted the Girl’s eyes looking at the artist, and now at the viewers.  Her eyes and her lips which are sexually implied, are very different from other women’s look and behavior in Vermeer’s other paintings.

~Images  from Google~

The mystery will continue, and the painting “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” will continue to be a superstar.  Good luck to your guess and imagination!

 “Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso