Huff’s Vermeer & Austen

September 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

This past Sunday, our JASNA chapter hosted current JASNA President Marsha Huff. She gave her noted talk comparing Johannes Vermeer’s artwork and Jane Austen’s artistry.

Two intriguing thoughts which were brought up during the talk include the observation that Mansfield Park (which Marsha thought had still to find its definitive screen representation) is a dialogue between events as seen by FANNY PRICE and events seen by EDMUND BERTRAM. Hmmmm…, I can’t say I ever noticed that! So must put MP on my list of to-be-read-soon books.

BTW, I did recently watch on YouTube the Rozema Mansfield Park. Wonderful to see Jonny Lee Miller, such a strong actor in both of his essays upon the Austen stage. Interesting to utilize Austen’s juvenilia; but a bit uncomfortable with the overtones assigned to Miss Crawford. And the actress who played Young Fanny — Hannah Taylor-Gordon — just made me think how wonderful she might be cast as my Emma — but more on my dream-casting of a film in some later post.

You can read about Rozema, Mansfield Park, and Fanny Price at

One Vermeer picture that grabbed my attention concerns a LETTER-READING Lady, how appropriate! As Marsha spoke about the work, discussing how Vermeer had made changes to it (discernible thanks to x-ray technology) and compared it to the “cancelled chapters” of Persuasion, one began to see how all artists  work until it pleases themselves. Sometimes we are our hardest critics!

Thank you, Marsha, for coming to Vermont and sharing your thoughts on Austen, Vermeer, art and writing. Marsha even had a few complimentary thoughts on my Mary & Emma research. Always nice to be noticed.

Vermeer spent his life in Delft; the closest I ever travelled to that was Brugge, 123 miles to the south and in Belgium rather than The Netherlands. My mother and I were there in May, and even that early in the year the light was phenomenal! How well I recall wanting to tour the city with its lights on, but I had to wait until 11 p.m. — and even that late in the evening the sky was only dusky.


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