The Lacemaker (detail), by Johannes Vermeer

Lawrence Weschler writes far better than I could about this painting in his book Everything that Rises: “how everything in it is slightly out of focus, either too close or too far, except for the very thing the girl herself is focusing upon, the two strands of thread pulled taut in her hands, the locus of all her labors. This painting is about concentration: gradually, spiralingly, we come to concentrate on the very thing the girl herself is concentrating on (everything else receding to the periphery of our awareness), like nothing so much as a painter lavishing his entire attention on his subject (or else, perhaps, like what happens as we ourselves subsequently pause, dumbstruck, before his canvas in the midst of our museum walk). Are we perhaps exaggerating here? Look more closely at the threads themselves, how they arrange themselves into a crisp V, couched in the M-like cast of shade and light playing upon the hand and fingers behind them. The girl, godlike, momentarily focues all her attention onto VM, the very author of his existance.”

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