A Dutch town, a mental hospital, two authors, three painters, confinement, and The Triumph of Death.

I was reading an article about a week ago regarding how an art historian settled down an argument over the precise location of a specific scene in a little Dutch town by using tax and residential property records. It was short but an interesting read, as I love art history and am into investigation. At the time I wasn’t paying attention to this painter, however I do like the work very much, a peaceful still scene in a Dutch little town Delft. The painting is called “The Little Street”.

Just a few days later I was reading “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen, in which she mentioned a painting displayed in the Frick Collection by a Dutch Golden Age Painter, Johannes Vermeer, who happens to be the person who painted “The Little Street” (Vermeer is also the painter who created other more famous works such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The Milkmaid”). The painting, which is titled “Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, is essentially what Susanna’s half-autobiographic work named after; she dedicates the name of the book to that moment (or moments) when she was in Frick Collection looking at that girl, when the girl seemed to talk to her.

And then I saw a friend sharing an amazing painting on Instagram by, again, such a coincident, a Dutch painter, from the same period of time, whose name is Marseus van Schrieck. I mentioned that I just recently discovered Johannes Vermeer (out of surprise) and she then introduced me to a documentary film called “Tim’s Vermeer”, which is the journey of an entrepreneur Tim Jenison trying to recreate the painting device Vermeer used centuries ago (this is based on a theory that Vermeer used Camera Obscura to create his realistic photo-like works).

Finally, yesterday, I picked up my “The Colossus” by Sylvia Plath, a book I bought a while ago but only started reading because of the confinement. In the second poem “Two Views of a Cadaver Room”, Sylvia used Pieter Brueghel’s panorama painting “The Triumph of Death” as a motif (or a scene) to express her complex understanding/feeling of death and love. While the painting is clearly related to the Black Death, I can’t stop to think that both Susanna Kaysen and Sylvia Plath were confined to the same hospital, McLean Hospital, but 15 years apart, and that I, and actually we, are all in confinement in this pandemic that kills thousands and counting, a real Triumph of Death.

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