Alone with The Girl with a Pearl Earring

During the global pandemic year of 2020, I availed myself of the opportunity to be “Alone with Vermeer” and see his “Gezicht op Delft” at the Mauritshuis art museum in Den Haag. I prepared myself by reading Brian Howell’s “The Dance of Geometry.

One consequence of the COVID-19 appointment-only policy of the museum was that there were not many people in the museum.

The scarcity of people wandering the building even permitted me to be completely alone in the room with Vermeer’s “Meisje met de Parel” for an extended period of time.


“Druivenstraat” is a collaborative series of artworks (2015) by Aschwin de Wolf (photography) and Avantika Bawa (composition). The photos were taken in the attic of the former home of the late Eva van Oosten, Aschwin’s grandmother, at Druivenstraat 1, Leiden in 2014.

Druivenstraat I - A

Druivenstraat I - B

The Grid

“The prevailing wisdom among today’s planners is that it is important to honor the land’s contours, which only goes to show how visionary the city fathers were: they created a New York as eccentrically “intentional” as St. Petersburg, a madly rational scheme imposed on nature. Nor did they have any use for the circles, ovals, and other geometric interventions so loved by Europeans. The commissioners loved the ninety-degree angle, the forthright, egalitarian plod of rectangle after rectangle, extended indefinitely: they would have gridded the sea and stars if given the chance.

One reason the city fathers liked the grid was that it facilitated the orderly sale and development of property. While one hears the Manhattan grid disparaged today as merely a capitalist device for real-estate speculation, to me it is a mighty form, existential metaphor, generator of modernity, Procrustean bed, call it what you will, a thing impossible to overpraise. The architect Rem Koolhaas called it “the most courageous act of prediction in Western Civilization.” It inspired Mondrian, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, and that’s good enough for me.”

Phillip Lopate in  Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan (2004)