In the Eye of the Beholder

I believe I have mentioned before that I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. One of its useful purposes here at The Gale Academy of Classical Education, is as a resource for current event discussions. Also, from time to time, the Leisure and Arts section provides me an opportunity to share art and music appreciation with our scholars.
A few days ago, I opened the paper and this picture caught my eye. I have traveled to Amsterdam a couple of times and have enjoyed the Rijksmuseum's offerings. I happen to have a special place in my heart for the old Dutch Masters--specifically the family and domestic scenes. I am impressed with the way they capture a scene so perfectly and realistically. Almost like a photograph.
So I cut out the article intending to share it with the youngsters. They are reluctant patrons of the arts but I soldier on in my efforts to keep their lives well-rounded; and continually try to expand their horizons beyond the latest video game. In fact, when we lived in Washington we had a family pass to the Portland Art Museum and took in the amazing Rembrandt exhibit when it was passing through. Let me share a little snippet of our experience:
Spencer: "These paintings are priceless, but they have them hanging right here
with no protection--no Plexiglas covers or anything
Seth: "Yeah, you could spit on one of them."
This little exchange earned us the privilege of being tailed by security through
the ENTIRE exhibit.
But, I digress. Back to Vermeer and the Wall Street Journal. Luckily I decided to preview the article--I don't always do that. The art writer had some interesting perspectives on this innocent-looking little scene of domesticity that I cannot, in good taste, lay out completely in this family-friendly blog. But I think there is a lesson here about one's state of mind affecting one's view of the world. A couple of quotes:
"In the 'Milkmaid', erotic undercurrents are present in the
tentative dribble of milk; the scintillating light dancing across surfaces; the
tactility of glass, starched linen, wool, earthenware, crusty bread; the
electric-blue quiver and sway of the woman's apron. Yet the eroticism is never
overstated, even in the suggestive nudge of a hanging bread basket by a square copper pail."
Really? All I see is a sweet, modestly dressed young girl making breakfast.

"A jumble of conflicting urges, she corkscrews, turning this way and that. And her white linen cap lifts slightly and spreads, exposing her face, her ear, to the light, just in line with the a small break in the window...The maid is a flagship--her linen cap and apron billow, as if she is setting sail. Whether she is carried by the winds of eroticism or those of the spirit; whether she is even making bread porridge--is immaterial. Vermeer gives her, and us, wide enough berth to travel wherever the painting takes us."

Vermeer's painting seems to take the writer on a trip to the gutter. (Mind you, I only shared the least offensive of his observations!) Personally, I prefer to travel the high road.

But now that I have read his insights, I am seeing the ordinary utensils in my kitchen in a new light. I opened a drawer and I'm pretty sure I caught the spoons suggestively nudging.


Shanna said…
People are seriously ridiculous. Too many "scholars" are obsessed with Freudian views of the world.
Melanie said…
Yikes! I've heard that newspaper subscriptions are declining, but I hope the WSJ hasn't resorted to erotic writing to draw in new readers. In the meantime, I'll be careful in the kitchen.

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