A WALK IN THE CLOUDS

She is on the top floor. She is the most famous face in the palace. She is pretty simple, really. A young woman who they call the Dutch Mona Lisa. I am talking about the Girl with the Pearl Earring. This painting by Johannes Vermeer is at home in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague. The museum used to be a palace and it is a very fitting place to have art on display.

I recently visited the museum and what I saw has stayed with me. This museum is full of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) and what is surprising about this collection is the variety. There are portraits, landscapes, animals, still life, maritime images and just a few religious works. The two most famous painters are Rembrandt and Vermeer. It is a cliché to say that you cannot appreciate art unless you see it in person, but I can promise you that it is the truth. To stand and look at the Girl with the Pearl Earring and to see how the light falls across her scarf and face…well it really does make you pause. I found out that this painting was purchased for the equivalant of one euro in 1881 and eventually donated to the museum in 1902. And the girl will be traveling soon, the painting will be in Japan and the United States in 2012.

But for me, I loved the landscapes the most. I am very drawn to farm life, and there were many Dutch farms to look at. Also, there were many ice skating scenes that made you really feel the cold. Farmhouses, skaters and clouds. I have been fascinated by the Dutch skies since I got here. I cannot really explain to you how unique the clouds and skies are, but they are truly amazing. There are colors and shapes that I have not seen before in the sky. To see these skies in a variety of paintings was a treat because I really do know that the painted skies are not fiction. These skies really do exist. Painters and photographers have been drawn to the skies of the Netherlands and now I know why.

One of my favorite paintings in the museum was Vermeer’s View of Delft. I wanted to share this with you, so you could get a sense of its beauty. We stood there a long time looking at this.

The other unexpected treat on this day was seeing that the museum was next door to Parliament. One side of Parliament is a courtyard which we walked around and the other side is a pond. The Hague was really beautiful on this sunny, cold Sunday and so very quiet. There were blocks and blocks of embassies and hardly any flags were flying, as it was not a work day. But it was a great mini tour, to visit a world famous museum and the seat of government, in just a few steps.

And on this day, the sky was beautiful. Just beautiful.

This is Parliament. The small tower to the left is the Prime Minister’s office. And to the left of that tower is the museum. The pond is the Hofvijver (now you know why I am struggling to learn this language!). When it is super cold this pond freezes and you can ice skate. Skating by the powers that be.

Recommended reading:  The girl with the pearl earring by Tracy Chevalier, of course.

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Comments

  • Aledys Ver  On January 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is my favourite painting in the whole world. In the period 2008/10 when I used to go to The Hague every week, I visited the museum 5 times mainly to look at this painting.
    I have so many photographs of the Hofvijver! Every time I go there, It seems I can’t resist taking a shot there. Here’s a recent one (2011) I took with my mobile phone on a very dreary day but I just loved the reflections on the water:

    Parlamento neerlandés / Dutch Parliament

  • Stephanie  On January 26, 2012 at 4:04 am

    You realize that Vermeer’s View of Delft is one of my all time favorites. When we were there in 1998, we bought a print and had it beautifully framed. I lost it in the divorce and still am bitter about it! Am happy to hear that you like it as well. I also have fond memories of visiting the Mauritshuis Museum and of course my old stomping grounds, Den Haag!

  • Merijn  On December 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I am so happy you mention how beautiful the sky can look in the Netherlands. I am from Utrecht and now live in San Francisco and most of my American friends look at me bewildered when I try to explain there is more than a fully blue sky…. Thanks, now I can show them..:-) and yes, have tons of fun with my name over here….

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