The Story Of A Stare Down

Penelope Rowlands at The American Scholar:

“It seems as though Cromwell has More right where he wants him,” the social scientist Todd Oakley writes in his essay, “Do Pictures Stare?” Many art-loving New Yorkers will immediately get the reference. At the Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue, two portraits by the German artist Hans Holbein the Younger—one of Sir Thomas More, the other of Thomas Cromwell—faced off against each other for years from either side of a majestic fireplace in the hallowed, oak-paneled room known as the Living Hall.

Other visitors to the Frick have doubtless shared Oakley’s impression. It’s fun to imagine that Cromwell glares at More, daggers drawn, at least telepathically. For his part, More—a study in tranquility—stares thoughtfully in Cromwell’s direction. He’s looking into the distance toward his left, at something we can’t see. His expression is pensive, calm, direct.

more here.