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.