by Kenneth Lyen
Johannes Vermeer is one of my favourite painters. Every time I visit the National Gallery in London, I will make it a point to view his two paintings hung there, the Lady Standing at the Virginal, and the Young Woman Seated at the Virginal.
It is therefore with great interest when I heard that they were making a film of Tracy Chevaliers book, Girl with the Pearl Earring. The film did not disappoint. I loved the way 17th century Holland was recreated. I loved the way the girl was portrayed, her delicate features, her demure nature, and her innocence. Poor thing, caught in a situation that was beyond her control.
Vermeers reputation is based on only 35 paintings that survive. Sadly he died at the age of 43, leaving an impoverished widow and eleven young children. None of his paintings have been put for sale in the past 80 years. Therefore this weeks auction of Vermeers Young Woman Seated at the Virginal by Sothebys is a momentous occasion in the art world. An anonymous buyer paid a total of £16 million (US $30 million).
Painted towards the end of his life, Young Woman Seated at the Virginal shows a girl wearing a yellow shawl playing the virginal. However she is not paying attention to what she is playing, her head is turned to the left, and she has a melancholic look in her eyes.
It will be the same melancholic look that I will carry when next I visit the National Gallery, and see this painting no more.