- Jan Vermeer to his Model
(Girl with Pearl Earring, ca. 1665)
- All the light at my command is in this brush:
I bid a skyful crowd into a pip
and place, with painter’s hand and lover’s touch,
reflections in your eyes and on your lip.
- I pour the day like water from the side,
and caught between the woman and the girl,
as where a twilight and the sea collide,
I find these careful shadows for your pearl.
- I have no words for this, I cannot name
the strange sense of a flower in your face;
but I can paint the way it waits to bloom,
and stop time on this cusp of quiet grace.
We just watched Girl With A Pearl Earring, the movie based on Tracy Chevalier’s debut novel (which now I think I’d like to read). The movie is very pretty — too pretty at times for its less glamorous subject matter, but beautifully evocative of Golden Age Dutch art in the scenes where it matters. It builds a fine, slow suspense, and if the eponymous painting has ever held you in its famous spell you will enjoy the way the film treats it.
I dug this verse out and decided it wasn’t completely worthless — mainly for the third stanza. It’s not known who the model really was; when I wrote this I had in mind the most popular theory, that she was Vermeer’s eldest daughter, and my own idea (which Chevalier apparently shares) that the painting has too much of a sexual undertone for that to make complete sense. Let me know what you think.