Luckily for us, we aren't the only Vermeer-lovers in our village, and a neighbour who had preceded us to The Hague by a fortnight gave us some tactical advice. We positioned ourselves near each successive picture and simply inched forward as the crowd round it gradually moved on to the next. Not ideal, perhaps; but there were compensations.
We saw each painting first from afar, and at different angles as we drew nearer. We also enjoyed the reactions of our peers: neither chaotic nor hysterical, most were attentive and eager before each work, but in very different ways - some lecturing a companion, some studiously scrutinising each detail, some diligently taking notes, some standing raptly silent.
As for the "timed entrance", we had expected to spend an hour and a half (only 23 pictures, after all), but after nearly three hours we left only to avert dehydration or starvation. Throughout our visit no one hurried us along.
As we look back on the exhibition and talk it over, we find that Ms Droth's "serenity and stillness" don't quite hit the mark. We saw (but had never really seen in any reproduction) a kind of still tension, a focused energy which creates movement. And it occurs to us now that Vermeer himself found this compact intensity amidst a townscape of bustling activity more diverse and chaotic than anything in the Mauritshuis this spring.
Eric Van Tassel
Jane Van Tassel
Fowlmere, CambridgeshireReuse content