Presented by
Timothy Brook

Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S. Archer Ave., 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60616
312 326-5040

Dinner will be family style with tables choosing from the menu and sharing costs.  Please reserve in advance to allow adequate seating.

Johannes Vermeer’s paintings have haunted viewers with their beauty and mystery for centuries.  His pictures are not mere masterpieces of scale, perspective and domestic life, but exquisite window boxes of the first global economy.  Oxford historian Timothy Brook decodes the history framed within the painter’s works, which tells a story as big and broad as the Dutch empire of the day.  Vermeer composed his pictures with great deliberation; every single object carried significance for the artist and resonates through the ages.

Brooks shows that we can learn an astonishing amount about the world of the painter and his subject by asking simple questions.  Why, in Officer and Laughing Girl, is the officer wearing a hat?  Who made it?  Where did it come from?  Hidden in the answers are new perspectives on lost worlds, empires and trade routes, social shifts and cultural awareness, private habits and foreign policy.

Each item is a portal on to the age of its origin – where the entire globe was newly accessible.  The wharves of Holland, wrote a French visitor, were “an inventory of the possible.”  Vermeer’s Hat shows just how rich this inventory was, and how the urge to acquire such things was refashioning the world more thoroughly than anyone quite realized.  It offers us a rich new understanding both of Vermeer’s paintings and of the era they portray.

Timothy Brook holds the Shaw Chair in Chinese Studies at Oxford University and author of many books, including the award-winning The Confusions of Pleasure.  He lives in Toronto, Canada.