Research Article

Vermeer: Interruptions, Exclusions, and ‘Imagining Seeing’



This article proposes an essential interrelatedness of Vermeer’s strategies of inclusion and exclusion of an implied beholder. I will argue that such strategies mutually reinforce each other, to the extent that the plausibility of one is arguably dependent upon the possibility of the other. This is evidenced by Vermeer’s subtle manipulations of pictorial space, and the article traces a decisive shift in his familiar use of barriers (repoussoir) from those aimed at an external presence to those oriented towards an internal beholder. The feasibility of this interdependence rests upon a theory of imaginative engagement with paintings that can accommodate both an internal beholder and the felt lack of occupancy of the imagined situation’s point of view. I argue that the Dependency Thesis, as set out by M. G. F. Martin, can provide plausibility for both kinds of imaginative engagement with paintings, when sensory imagination is conceived as an instance of imagining seeing. These engagements exploit the notorious emptiness of imagination’s necessarily perspectival point of view.
  • Year: 2015
  • Volume: 52 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 38-59
  • DOI: 10.33134/eeja.132
  • Published on 15 May 2015
  • Peer Reviewed