Paintings in the Story

"Do you remember the painting we saw in the Town Hall a few years ago? It was a view of Delft, from the Rotterdam and Schiedam Gates. With the sky that took up so much of the painting, and the sunlight on some of the buildings."
"And the paint had sand in it to make the brickwork and the roofs look rough. And there were long shadows in the water, and tiny people on the shore nearest us."
"That's the one."
I remembered it well, remembered thinking that I had stood at that very spot many times and never seen Delft the way the painter had.

View of Delft
Mauritshuis, The Hague


Entranced with herself in the mirror, she did not seem to be aware that anyone was looking at her.
I wanted to wear the mantle and the pearls. I wanted to know the man who painted her like that.

Woman With a Pearl Necklace
Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz,
Gemaldegalerie, Berlin-Dahlem



"When he painted Tanneke she stood there happily pouring milk for months without a thought passing through that head, God love her."

The Milkmaid
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam




"You remember the last one," Maria Thins reminded Catharina. "The maid. Remember van Ruijven and the maid in the red dress!"
Catharina snorted with muffled laughter.
"That was the last time anyone looked out from one of his paintings," Maria Thins continued, "and what a scandal that was!"

The Girl With the Wineglass
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick


"Look at me," he said.
She looked at him. Her eyes were large and dark, almost black.
He gave her a quill and paper. She sat in the chair, leaning forward, and wrote, an inkwell at her right. He opened a pair of the upper shutters and closed the bottom pair. The room became darker but the light shone on her high round forehead, on her arm resting on the table, on the sleeve of the yellow mantle.
"Move your left hand forward slightly," he said. "There."
She wrote.
"Look at me," he said.
She looked at him.

A Lady Writing
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

"In between the women is a man sitting with his back to us–"
"Van Ruijven," my father interrupted.
"Yes, van Ruijven. All that can be seen of him is his back, his hair, and one hand on the neck of a lute."
"He plays the lute badly," my father added eagerly.
"Very badly. That's why his back is to us – so we won't see that he can't even hold his lute properly."
My father chuckled. He was always pleased to hear that a rich man could be a poor musician.

The Concert
Isabella Gardner Museum, Boston [stolen]

"When you look at her cap long enough, you see that he has not really painted it white, but blue, and violet, and yellow."
"But it's a white cap, you said."
"Yes, that's what is so strange. It's painted many colors, but when you look at it, you think it's white."

Woman With a Water Jug
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


"Lick your lips, Griet."
I licked my lips.
"Leave your mouth open."
I was so surprised by this request that my mouth remained open of its own will. I blinked back tears. Virtuous women did not open their mouths in paintings.

Girl With a Pearl Earring
Mauritshuis, The Hague