The Dance Of Geometry

Written by Brian Howell
Review by Trudi E. Jacobson

This tri-part book centers on Jan Vermeer, the 17th century Dutch painter of such engaging and suggestive interior scenes. The first episode shows Vermeer as a young child with a growing interest in painting. The finely wrought depictions of Delft and of Vermeer’s family ground the reader solidly in the place and period. The second part of the book moves to a period later in Vermeer’s life, and is narrated by Frenchman Balthasar de Monconys, in the form of a secret journal. This section feels strained with the religious tensions of the time, not helped by the fact that Monconys is a Catholic in a Protestant land. He is accompanying his patron on a tour of Europe, and is most eager to view the paintings of the highly respected Vermeer. He becomes privy to Vermeer’s system for painting in such a realistic manner. The third section is set in the present, and is told from the point of view of a forger of one of Vermeer’s works. His analysis of the act of forging a painting enhanced my knowledge of the art, and my appreciation of the work.

While all three sections threw different types of light on the painter, I found myself most involved in the first, and might have preferred this more straightforward depiction of the painter to continue. However, the book was engaging, and the shifting viewpoints did add depth to my understanding of Vermeer and his work. Readers of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring might particularly enjoy this book.