Vermeer's Music Lesson with the Figures Removed
As with all of Vermeer's best paintings, I find "story" and symbol questions irrelevant in the so-called Music Lesson from Buckingham Palace. I see this room, in fact, without people. They intrude like ghosts into its perfection. The woman is there for her red skirt and columnar presence; the man is there to balance her. Vermeer was a painter, a composer of shapes and colors; not a storyteller. Never a storyteller. What matters more than the two vague human figures are the perfectly drawn leading in the windows and the decorations on the spinet, the living veins in the marble floor. The eye cannot help but be pulled in, by way of the cage of black-and-white diagonals, to the pure painted light on that exquisite wall, which mellows to the right as it passes the shadows of the ledge, the virginal's legs, the tilted mirror. (David Littlejohn, "What's So Great About Vermeer?" The Hudson Review, Summer 1996).
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