By Gaskell, Ivan; Vermeer, Jan
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Additional info for Vermeer's wager : speculations on art history, theory and art museums
This is a complex matter concerning the effective boundaries of objects, how we know objects and what viewers bring to objects, to which I shall return. Contrivers of other images can play on memories of works by Vermeer, which in turn enhances mystique. This is nowhere more apparent than in advertising. An example is Mario Sorrenti’s photograph of Kate Moss for an advertisement for the scent ‘Obsession’ (illus. 6). Her pose, meeting the viewer’s gaze over her left shoulder while her hair falls down her back, reminds us of the Girl with a Pearl Earring (illus.
The exchange of gaze between the viewer and the woman, and the exchange of gaze between the viewer and Cupid, are to do with the perception of beauty by the eye, which is as proper to the perception of painting as it is to sexual attraction. The viewer perceives the beauty of art and is smitten by it much as he might perceive the beauty of a woman and be smitten by her. Although, as we have seen, love could be conceived of as mutual between man and woman as their gazes lock, the articulation offered here assumes a male viewer whose gaze meets that of a female figure in the painting.
In doing so van Meegeren himself acquired a lasting mystique that in a sense is the obverse of that of Vermeer. Once Vermeer’s oeuvre had been purged of van Meegeren’s forgeries, it acquired a new purity, for in retrospect the forgeries were obvious, at least to the generation of specialists that succeeded those who had been duped and whose stylistic assumptions and ‘blind spots’ were different. The eventual consequence of the van Meegeren affair was to deflate the reputation of specialist scholars, while enhancing the mystique surrounding Vermeer’s name.