Girl in Hyacinth Blue
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This luminous story begins in the present day, when a professor invites a colleague to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer—but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in multiple lives. Susan Vreeland's characters remind us, through their love of this mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable.
my arms and breasts. I bathed again, pouring cool water over my neck to calm me, and listened to the sounds of the house—Gérard humming in his dressing gown, off-key but happily; staccato steps on the marble floor, chairs being arranged in the salon, hushed voices urging, “No, no, Madame said you’re to put it there,” and “Madame said we must not light the oil lamps in the drawing room, and the petite salle must be kept dim.” It would be ever so lovely, everywhere one looked, those plucky columns
hand, I couldn’t keep my eyes from the girl in the painting. What I saw before as vacancy on her face seemed now an irretrievable innocence and deep calm that caused me a pang. It wasn’t just a feature of her youth, but of something finer—an artless nature. I could see it in her eyes. This girl, when she became a woman, would risk all, sacrifice all, overlook and endure all in order to be one with her beloved. “This is more than a pretty curio, my good man,” I said. “You are looking into the
winnowing of souls. It was only water lapping four feet deep. One rare warm day, she put all three children into the boat, lowering the baby in his basket on a sling from the gable beam pulley, just so they could get outside. She breathed deeply and rowed very slowly to enjoy it longer. The motion of the water put Jantje to sleep. She rowed to the four other houses in the hamlet and asked at the windows if they had seen the stranger in a skiff come through again. Stranger? There’s nothing but
smelled her blown hair salted with sea wrack. We followed the Damsterdiep under the elms. She fascinated me with dark stories her grandfather told her, about shipwrecks and sailors and women cursed to sail with them forever, never putting foot on land, but tied to bowsprits when the ships came into ports. Her great-great-grandfather, she claimed, was the lighthouseman, Varick, of the Ameland light across the Wadden Sea. He got rich, she said, by sending out false signals so trading ships would
of crushed pearls. He opened the window a few centimeters more, then less, settling on an angle. A whiff of breeze stirred the loose hair at her temple. “If you sit here, I will paint you, Magdalena. But only if you stop that shouting.” Her eyes opened wider and she pursed her lips shut against the smile that might burst into words. He brought the sewing basket, placed it on the table, and thought of its dear, humble history, picked out by Catharina from a dozen at some merchant’s stall. He