Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World

Liam Matthew Brockey
2 páginas

This short, evocative book uses a selection of paintings by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) as vantage points from whence to observe the emergence of the modern, interconnected world. Vermeer’s Hat owes its title to a prominent object in the painting entitled “Officer and Laughing Girl,” one of the many “doors” that Brook describes. The author finds his other entries in works such as the “View of Delft,” “The Geographer” and “Woman holding a Balance.” Most important for Brook are the depictions of everyday commodities and household items included in these landscape and genre paintings. These objects, he contends, are representative of the paradox which has come to serve as one of the key identifiers for the present globalized age: they are at once ordinary and exotic. The beaver hat shown in one painting, the American silver pieces in another, and the Chinese fruit bowl in a third were items that became routine components of European life in the mid-seventeenth century despite their distant provenance—so routine as to be depicted in a casual manner in Vermeer’s interiors. As such, Brook argues, it was not the first contacts between peoples at the corners of the earth which produced the “global world” but rather the span when such encounters became predictable occurrences at some point roughly fifteen decades after the voyages of Columbus and da Gama.