My knuckles didn't get much of a vacation after all. Poor buggers. I took them to the Met yesterday afternoon, then they got an evening constitutional around Central Park, but I'm afraid I made them do a little more work today. I was jonesing to start my next text. I think the only person who had a shorter vacation than my knuckles was Obama. Jeez, poor guy, huh? A week on the Cape and I'll bet he never even got to take his tie off.
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There's a painting in the Met that never fails to pull me in. I always gravitate to it, and then have one of those moments that I described when I was at the dentist's office, when the thin veneer of 'reality' is peeled back, and you see what's underneath. It's a portrait of a woman by Rembrandt. If you're standing in front of his self portrait, it's two paintings to the right. It's been in this spot for at least a couple of years, so it'll still be there when you go to see it this week. This woman's gaze is even more penetrating than that of his self portrait. I think if the gallery was closed and I was allowed to stand there and stare into her eyes for a long time, I'd self-realize. Either that or self-implode. Whatever's in there looking back at me is not this woman, but something else. It's a bizarre set of eyes, and if you look closely, you'll see why:
While the portrait is at a slight three-quarter angle to the picture plane, the eyes are straight on. It's subtle, but check it out. Block out everything but her eyes, and you'll see that both are the same size, and there's no perspective as the eyelids curve around the orbs. This contradiction in perspectives is extremely unsettling. But that's just a technicality. If in fact Rembrandt had painted them properly, they'd still look like disembodied eyes. The face is kind and compassionate, but the eyes? They're pure presence, devoid of sentimentality or attachment. Radiant, penetrating, kind of creepy. Straight-up Rembrandt.
This is my favorite painting in the Met. It's also my favorite portrait by Rembrandt. And relatively obscure, for some reason. I'd love to know his connection with this woman. What they talked about while he painted her; what he saw in her eyes to paint them out of whack. Because surely he did it on purpose. He was Rembrandt, for God's sake! He painted piles and piles of three-quarter-view portraits, with nothing askew. Did he see a powerful presence in this woman? The clear intelligence in her eyes shines through the mask of her unremarkable face. She must have embodied something - concealed something - to which Rembrandt was drawn and tried to capture. And btw, the photo above shows none of it - you have to stand in front of the painting to get it.
Well, I've warned the guards at the Met that there might be a whirlwind of activity around the portrait this week, as busloads of bloggers line up to see the Disembodied Eyes of Pure Consciousness by Rembrandt. I actually know one of the guards by name now - Jose, nice guy - and left him with a supply of smelling salts, should anyone need to be revived. And please let me know if you have a 'reality peel' when you look into the woman's eyes.