Serendipity

by rowboat1


While reading a book of essays about 17th Century Dutch painters my friend Ali had loaned me, I came across a name I didn’t recognize. Gerard ter Borch. Maybe you know his work? I did not. So, as is often the case when I have no clue who someone is, I googled him and went to the the first listing under his name. It was a Wikipedia entry. This was a few months ago. During Wikipedia’s annual fundraising drive.

At the top of the Wikipedia listing for Gerard ter Borch was a picture of Brandon Harris (it’s no longer there since the fundraiser is over). Brandon was personally appealing to me for a donation. Which I reflexively ignored. What I couldn’t ignore, however, was that he looked exactly like Gerard ter Borch. Same pose. Same face. Same expression. Same facial hair. Same sartorial color palette. It was highly disturbing. I thought it was a joke. You know how everyone loves a good joke about Gerard ter Borch.

Anyway it seems Brandon Harris’s face was on many Wikipedia pages during the annual fundraiser, making personal appeals to anyone researching anything from merkins to scrimshaw. Did Brandon Harris or anyone at Wikipedia know his face would disquietingly appear on the top of the page for Gerard ter Borch? A Seventeenth-Century Dutch painter I’d never heard of and who I was only looking up only because I was reading a book of essays by Zbigniew Herbert, who I’d also never heard of prior to Ali’s loaning me his book?

How many people happened to look up Gerard ter Borch during this year’s annual Wikipedia fundraiser? Other than me. Maybe I’m underselling the worldwide appeal of Gerard ter Borch and his work and his importance within the art historical cannon?

Zbigniew Herbert’s Still Life With a Bridle is an excellent book. I’m now reading a collection of Herbert’s poems which I borrowed from the same friend. But this is not a post about Zbigniew Herbert or a nudge for you to familiarize yourself with Herbert’s writing if you don’t already know it (which you should…but whatever). Mostly what I wanted to say is that by deciding to look up someone I’d never heard of  I got to discover how much Brandon Harris looks exactly like Gerard ter Borch. Exactly. Nobody in the world ever knew this until I discovered it. If I accomplish nothing else in life, I will always lay claim to this. Should Brandon Harris and the folks at Wikipedia ever decide to maintain they noticed the likeness first, and that the juxtaposition of portraits was intentional, I will countermaintain that I was the first and only loser in the entire world to appreciate the joke… until I told you.

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