Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beauty and Votes Continued

Can One Vermeer Push The Hague to the Top of the List?

If the last post asked the unfair question, "Where's the prettiest place in Europe," this one counters by asking, "inside or outside"?  There are lots of ways of looking at beauty.

An hour from Amsterdam by intercity train is The Hague, home of a court of international war crimes and lovely buidlings.

The thing that brings one here more than any other is Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, shown here on the cover of the museum guidebook (since no photography is allowed inside the facility itself).

And yes it's as stunning in person as the movie and book and hype make one expect, and in fact, more so.  Who is she?  What is she thinking?  Like van Gogh, Vermeer went through later re-appreciation; in his own lifetime, van Gogh couldn't give his paintings away for free, and Vermeers, now "priceless," were so valueless that Vermeer's name was crossed out and other trendier artist names signed on top. (Like the Mona Lisa, Girl With a Pearl Earring is beyond any price comparison, but let's just assume the bidding would start at 200 million dollars, if recent art market prices are any indication.)

But what makes beauty?  Is a place special based on our experiences, what we thought or did, or who were with?  My wife writes in her journal in cafe in this shot below.

Little details add to the composite impression.  Pears for sale at a sidewalk stall almost made my camera act without my control: the camera seems to turn itself on and take pictures like this just because it is too beautiful not to notice.  This may sound mystical or self-deprecatory, but I am nearly serious: rather than using Nikon's neck strap, I keep my camera on a long, homemade leash around my shoulder and just "shoot from the hip" as I walk, trusting autofocus and good luck to do the rest.

So what is the prettiest city in Europe?  Does it have the best canals, the best art museums, the best cafe au lait, the best companionship, or the best pears?  A few more cities need to enter into the beauty pageant for us to find out.


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