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Old 5th September 2019, 04:40 PM   #1
Oystein
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How I came to adore Jan Vermeer - a short tale of failing human memory

This thread could go whereever psychology or neuroscience goes. Science and Medicine?

Or perhaps this belongs in Art. Or History. Never mind.


I have been an ardent adorer of Jan Vermeer and the beauty and perfection of his paintings since 1993, I guess around this time of the year, when I saw some of his large paintings in the Prado in Madrid. At the time, I was 25 and not educated in the old masters, the name didn't ring a bell with me. It now does, with a vengeance.
(Same day, same place, I also came to love Francisco Goya)

So I was happy yesterday to visit Delft, the place where Jan Vermeer worked, lived, died and is buried. I stood on his grave in the Old Church, and beheld a View of Delft from very nearly the spot where he painted it.

I perused Wikipedia to refresh my memory of his life and work.
And this is what I found:
  • Jan Vermeer left only 37 painting to our time that are ascribed to him
  • I looked at them all, and could not recall which ones had lit the flame of passion in my heart 26 years ago
  • None of his paintings is as large as I remembered them
  • None of his paintings are in the Prado in Madrid
I have no idea whose paintings I fell in love with in the Prado! And I have no idea why I thought I fell in love with Vermeer. Such is human memory: It sometimes plays weird tricks on you.
(My recollection of the Goyas is accurate)
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Old 5th September 2019, 05:51 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
This thread could go whereever psychology or neuroscience goes. Science and Medicine?

Or perhaps this belongs in Art. Or History. Never mind.


I have been an ardent adorer of Jan Vermeer and the beauty and perfection of his paintings since 1993, I guess around this time of the year, when I saw some of his large paintings in the Prado in Madrid. At the time, I was 25 and not educated in the old masters, the name didn't ring a bell with me. It now does, with a vengeance.
(Same day, same place, I also came to love Francisco Goya)

So I was happy yesterday to visit Delft, the place where Jan Vermeer worked, lived, died and is buried. I stood on his grave in the Old Church, and beheld a View of Delft from very nearly the spot where he painted it.

I perused Wikipedia to refresh my memory of his life and work.
And this is what I found:
  • Jan Vermeer left only 37 painting to our time that are ascribed to him
  • I looked at them all, and could not recall which ones had lit the flame of passion in my heart 26 years ago
  • None of his paintings is as large as I remembered them
  • None of his paintings are in the Prado in Madrid
I have no idea whose paintings I fell in love with in the Prado! And I have no idea why I thought I fell in love with Vermeer. Such is human memory: It sometimes plays weird tricks on you.
(My recollection of the Goyas is accurate)
Keep in mind that paintings are often loaned out to other museums, so you may have seen a Vermeer that day. I saw Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phoenix Art Museum, and I can assure you it is not in their permanent collection.
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Old 6th September 2019, 05:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
Keep in mind that paintings are often loaned out to other museums, so you may have seen a Vermeer that day. I saw Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phoenix Art Museum, and I can assure you it is not in their permanent collection.
I did think of that. As a matter of fact, the Prado right now has an exposition of works by Vermeer (and Rembramd and Velásquez, until September 29th), which apparently includes the other street view in Delft.

But the Vermeers I remember having seen in 1993 cannot have been Vermeers - too large, and I don't recognize them when browsing his complete extant works.

What may have happened is that I noted the name Vermeer from an exposition of loaned works, without remembering the paintings, and also saw some paintings by another painter that impressed me, but don't remember that artist's name.

In any case, my memory is fooling me.


Now for something different - a weird coincidence:
In recent days, I had listened to Penn Jilette interviewed by Joe Rogan, and following that, I now looked at other talks with Penn and Teller - and learned, just yesterday, after having posted this thread, that Penn and Teller had produced a film "Tim's Vermeer", which documented a friend's quest to demonstrate, by painting his own (copy) of a Vermeer, that the original Vermeer may have used optical devices.
It's a small world, huh!
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Last edited by Oystein; 6th September 2019 at 05:57 AM.
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Old 6th September 2019, 06:26 AM   #4
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Take note: We can mix up painters from most schools, but never Goya.

And he couldn't draw.
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Old 6th September 2019, 06:30 AM   #5
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Tim's Vermeer is an interesting project, but I'm not entirely convinced. A lot of it is guesswork. Great watching though
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Old 6th September 2019, 06:51 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
I did think of that. As a matter of fact, the Prado right now has an exposition of works by Vermeer (and Rembramd and Velásquez, until September 29th), which apparently includes the other street view in Delft.
Wow, that could be today. The brick buildings are showing sign of age, only the clothing gives it away.
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Old 6th September 2019, 09:03 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Worm View Post
Tim's Vermeer is an interesting project, but I'm not entirely convinced. A lot of it is guesswork. Great watching though
I quite enjoyed it but couldn't get past the subtle feeling that the whole thing was a joke by Penn. It did introduce me to one painting I'd love to see in real life -- The Milk Maid.
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