Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Scenes of Domesticity

I had an impromptu trip into Cambridge yesterday to visit the exhibition "Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence" at the Fitzwilliam museum. The title is a little misleading as there are actually only four Vermeer paintings among the thirty two on display, but that does not distract from what is a beautiful exhibition. At its heart  is "The Lacemaker" on loan from The Louvre, an exquisite little painting no bigger than 12" square. You can almost see her hands moving, working the bobbins.

Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker c.1670, Musee du Louvre, Paris

But there is so much more to see - beautiful domestic interiors showing women inhabiting their private spaces, at work or at leisure. Intimate scenes of domesticity.

Jan Steen, Woman at her Toilette, 1663, The Royal Collection, Her Majesty the Queen

Each one a masterpiece of 17th century Dutch painting.

Jacobus Vrel, Woman at her Window, c.1650, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

For me one of the highlights was seeing how beautifully the fabrics had been painted - lustrous satin, rich velvets and jaquards - each one truely magnificent. I found a quote about Vermeer in the Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists that sums it up beautifully - "Domestic life is raised to the level of poetry."

Gerrit Dou, Woman at a Window, 1663, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

In addition there was a very small exhibition (just one cabinet) of 17th century bobbin and needlelace which was stunning - but no photos allowed nor postcards available. (Although I'm tempted to go back and draw).
Back home I created my own little scene of domesticity and got the Christmas cake in the oven... I own up, I cheated this year and brought everything ready measured courtesy of Delia and Waitrose. (Although my girls provided the eggs)


The house smelt wonderful last night... and now begins the task of feeding it.

Don't be fooled by my being so well prepared... the odds are I'll still be doing the marzipan and icing on Christmas Eve.

14 comments:

  1. Planning to pop into town to see that exhibition tomorrow - aren't we lucky to live near Cambridge.

    Your cake is looks perfect!

    Celia
    x

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  2. I think I'll have to visit Cambridge very soon!

    I made that cake too at the weekend - and yes I'll probably be finishing it on Christmas Eve too!

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  3. Sometimes the Girl's Mamgu only ices her cake on Christmas day, and sometimes not even then...

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  4. My husband doesn't like marzipan and icing so I only have to make a good fruit cake. I can almost smell yours and my mouth is watering.
    Those paintings are wonderful. I marvel at Vermeer's amazing skill in painting so many different materials - lace, stone, wood, hair, skin etc. A delightful peep into other lives.

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  5. yummy looking cake Gina. it doesn't get eaten in our house so I stopped ... shame really. mind you... I've been known to eat a whole pack of marzipan before it reached the cake lol.

    love those Vermeer paintings you posted, such an air of tranquility and peace to them

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  6. The exhibition looks wonderful - there might have only been 4 Vermeer paintings, but the one's you've shown us seem to have a similar 'look'.

    Your Christmas cake looks gorgeous - I was wondering about doing Delia's Waitrose one - I think you've convinced me!

    x

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  7. I had read about that exhibition and lamented the fact that the distance to see it is just too great but now I have, through your eyes. Thank you. Going back with a sketchbook sounds a fabulous idea but as for that cake.... It too looks fabulous but I've never made a Christmas cake ever and never eat it either. Can't stand marzipan and Mum used to make it when we were kids by fluffing up the icing about an inch thick with a fork. It was usually like concrete and put me off for life!

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  8. There is nothing quite like standing and really looking at paintings and I also particularly like seeing how textiles have been rendered. No Christmas cake been made here - yet.............

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  9. Thirsty things those Christmas cakes, aren't they!! ;)
    It does look good!

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  10. Thank you for sharing the pictures - it looks like it was a small, yet very inspiring exhibition. Not every day it gets noticed that even the domestic scenes can actually be pretty!

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  11. 'fraid no Christmas cake made here but I am working on raising the level of my domestic life to poetry.

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  12. Your cake looks delicious! I've never actually made a Christmas cake I'm ashamed to say. Initially this was because I never used to like fruit cake but now it's probably because I always seem to be on a diet! Lucy xx

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  13. I love works of art depicting domestic life too, it always strikes a chord with me. And there's nothing more romantically domestic and homely than baking a Christmas cake is there! Extra wonderful that your girls provided the eggs, that's even more homely! Vanessa xxx

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  14. I love Vermeer's Lacemaker and painted a copy of it for our dining room. It speaks to me in so many ways.

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