Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by Susan Vreeland


MacMurray & Beck, Denver, 1999. ISBN 1878448900.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 05/08/2002

Fiction: Literary

Have you ever picked up an old, old article and wondered about the story behind it? Have you looked at beautiful art and wondered about that? Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a novel which traces the fictional provenance of a painting by Vermeer backwards from it's current owner to the time the artist was inspired to paint it.

The style reminds me of a group of storytellers sitting around a table, each picking up where the other leaves off, and each telling a very different, sometimes very dramatic rendering of an object's journey through time. Yet all are tied together by a fascination and a reverance for the skill of the artist and the subject of his work.

A young girl sees,"The face of the girl in the painting almost glowed, her blue eyes, cheeks, the corners of her mouth all bright and glossy, the light coming right at her across the space between them. She seemed more real than the people in the room."

And so this precious painting comes into their home for a short intelude before their lives are ended and the spoils go to the victor. Much, much earlier, the carefully wrapped painting is discovered in a boat along with a newborn child during a flood. "Sell the painting. Feed the child," are the words written on the back of an art document.

And so we are drawn back to the very moment of inspiration. This is a gentle, lovely tale of how a thing of beauty can affect the lives of many.

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