Amsterdam turned out to be one of my favourite places I’ve visited so far on this trip. It is certainly the prettiest – with the crooked houses, canals, bridges, and the beautiful weather we experienced.
It was also home to several works by Johannes Vermeer. It is my goal to see as many Vermeer paintings as I can, mostly because he painted my all-time favourite painting Girl with a Pearl Earring (and maybe because Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy himself, played Vermeer in the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring).
However, my hunt for Vermeer began in cloudy London, where I visited the National Gallery on my own, while Geoff gallivanted off to Wembley Stadium to see the Buffalo Bills play (even the Atlantic Ocean cannot stop him from seeing his beloved Bills.)
I saw two paintings: A Lady Seated at a Virginal and A Lady Standing at a Virginal. It was an exciting moment for me to see a Vermeer painting in person.
My hunt continued in the homeland of Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, which we visited on the second day of our Amsterdam visit. We saw: The Love Letter, The Milk Maid, and The Little Street.
All three were quite small compared to paintings around them, especially compared with Rembrandt’s The Night Watch that are housed in the same hall and take up entire walls of the museum.
We then took the train to The Hague to visit the Mauritshuis, which is the Royal Palace Gallery of the Netherlands. It houses Vermeer’s most famous (and my favourite, of course) painting, along with View of Delft and Diana and her Companions.
I was surprised at how floored I was seeing Girl with a Pearl Earring. It is an astonishing piece of work because of how beautiful the girl’s face is, how there is nothing to distract your eye in the background, and the attention to detail in the lighting and shadows of her face. It also looks incredibly lifelike.
The View of Delft painting was striking: the reflection off the water and the brickwork looks real, even up close. It turned out to be one of Geoff’s favourites.
The last two paintings I had a chance to see were in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. I saw The Glass of Wine and Woman with a Pearl Necklace. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take photos in the gallery – an eager security guard eyed me while I walked around with my camera around my neck, though the lens cap was on.
Seeing these paintings in person made you realized what made Vermeer so famous after his death – they stand apart for all the others because of their life-likedness, the emotion, the skill, the technique, and the interesting subjects in them.
They are also still so refreshing to see because of how different they are and the master technique involved. We have already been to so many art museums, to the point where we are seeing the same works in different museums that were obviously not masterpieces.
Right now, I’ve seen all the Vermeers I could on this trip. Most of them are housed in New York City and Washington, D.C., so it is a possibility that I may visit NYC or DC (again) in the future!