Paint / Glass / Rage

When one walks into a gallery filled with masterpieces, it is almost a hallucinatory experience. The physical reminders of the journey there with the usual aches and pains of travel melt away as sore feet carry the viewer through halls where genius materialized hangs on the walls. All the crowds around the paintings are insignificant, all the noises of school parties and their teachers bellowing commands, all that quiets down and one is faced with something that tells of the otherworldly skill and dedication of the artist and restores one’s faith in humanity and its shared existence in the world. The volume of the surrounding world slides down, the self stops its incessant chattering, and after a moment one snaps out of it and moves to the next work.

But sometimes there are problems, little annoyances in the paintings themselves that don’t allow a good viewing. There are numerous entries in my journal from the National Gallery in London where I’ve written down: “Glass.” There’s a sheet of glass between me and the canvas, and sometimes it ruins everything. Not always, mind you, because there were paintings that had one where my notes do not show any protest, but this happened often enough for there to be a good number of “glasses” scribbled in agitated letters. For instance, the great Bronzino‘s Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time is an exquisite example of Mannerist weirdness, but all the distracting gleams and reflections the lights and the movement of the crowds created on its surface made for a sad viewing.

Source: Wikipedia

It was still wonderful to look at, but it could have been better. There’s probably a good reason for the glass, vandals and whatnot, but it’s a sorry sight because it somehow reminds one of the fast food age we live in. I don’t know if that makes sense, because for all I know Renaissance paintings might have been placed behind a glass to begin with, but I doubt it. By the way, Monty Python fans will recognize Cupid’s foot in that Bronzino.

Vermeer is a painter whose stuff I’ve always wanted to see, but sadly I’ve managed to get a glimpse of only a couple of his paintings. I can’t explain it, but I think they are just about the greatest things ever splashed on a canvas. There was one in the National Gallery.

Source: Wikipedia

It’s called Lady Seated at a Virginal and I’ve written in my notebook: “I just want to touch it.” Maybe that’s why there’s a glass disfiguring this one as well. It just didn’t settle because of it, the light went all over the place and created reflections which made it impossible to find a spot in the hall which would have enabled me to see the painting in its entirety.

Source: Wikipedia

It seems like many of the Vermeers have found their way to New York. That seems like a long way to go to see his paintings, but I just might have to cross the ocean to see them properly. Are they behind glass screens in the Met?

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