On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.
She was an arts administrator, well-known and much-admired as the director of the National Gallery of Australia from People flocked in their thousands to view the blockbuster exhibitions she organised, and she shared her love of art in a wonderful TV series called Hidden Treasures.
And she also published her notebooks, which are a delight for amateur art-lovers like me.
As she travelled the world organising loans for her exhibitions, she would sketch aspects of the paintings she admired in her notebooks, usually annotating them as well.
The Forgotten Notebook is her third, and sadly, her last. Each one is set in context, there is a bit of history about the painting who it was painted for, who bought it and so on and then there is discussion about the painting itself.
Each one gets about ten pages, which include a full colour page reproduction of the painting, and a full page detail of the painting as well as her sketch. Vermeer has opened one of the top windows to allow only one beam of light to fall down on this quiet, domestic scene. And just as he did in the case of Girl with a Red Hat, where he set his model against the dull ochre of a tapestry, here he places the girl in front of a very dark religious picture on the wall.
This allows the light to illuminate her hands, the scales, her fur-lined gown and her white cotton headscarf. You can see three gold coins lined up on the edge of the tablefront right. If she is weighing minute gold shavings this might be why she is holding the balance so gingerly, steadying herself with her left hand on the table top.
What fascinated me was the hand holding the scales — that little finger poised horizontally. And the miraculous things about Vermeer, like Caravaggio, is that no detail is too small to escape his attention, but never does such a small detail impose itself on the bigger picture.A brief, usually allegorical narrative that teaches a moral.
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