Solved: The Mystery of Why Garfield Phones Have Been Washing Ashore in France for 35 Years

JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Ever since his newspaper debut in 1978, the lasagna-loving and lackadaisical comic strip cat Garfield has been a ubiquitous presence in popular culture. Thousands of licensed products, a series of movies, and animated shows made him famous. Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis, even admitted he set out to create a character that would be easy to market.

That ambition backfired in a big way for the people living near the Iroise coast in Brittany, France. For decades, plastic telephones shaped like Garfield have washed ashore. Some arrive complete; others are in fragments. In 2018, more than 200 pieces appeared on the beach.

The reason was a mystery—until now. According to the BBC, anti-litter activists from France’s Ar Viltansou group recently mounted an awareness campaign drawing attention to the waste on the beaches, which sit at the Iroise Marine Nature Park.

The press caught the attention of a local farmer, René Morvan, who told Ar Viltansou president Claire Simonin-Le Meur that a raging storm in the 1980s led to a shipping container full of the phones being freed from a cargo ship. The container settled into a sea cave, where it remained mostly hidden. Morvan and his brother waded out to investigate and discovered the stash.

Acting on the information, representatives from Ar Viltansou and the Franceinfo media outlet set out to find the container during low tide, which was buried and surrounded by a number of the phones. The novelty items are said to be in incredible condition given the water and their age, with the paint mostly intact. Inside the phones, activists discovered starfish threaded between cables and crabs making their homes.

While the smoking gun has been found, it may not do much to resolve the waste issue. The container is mostly inaccessible and it’s unknown how many more Garfield phones still linger. Worse, no one is quite sure if there’s not another container somewhere out there, prepared to deposit a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Garfield phones in perpetuity.

[h/t BBC]

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Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

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Researchers Discover New Details In Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring

Johannes Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, circa 1665.
Johannes Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, circa 1665.
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

In 2018, the Mauritshuis gallery in The Hague, Netherlands, gathered an international team of researchers to take part in its “Girl in the Spotlight” project, which aimed to unlock the secrets of Johannes Vermeer’s famed Girl With a Pearl Earring, circa 1665.

Their recently published findings reveal many intriguing details about Vermeer’s artistic process and the artwork itself, though the identity of the painting’s enigmatic subject remains a mystery. Using X-rays and other advanced imaging techniques, the researchers discovered Vermeer depicted the girl in front of a faint green curtain—not an empty dark background—and even painted eyelashes on her eyes.

As The Guardian reports, scholars in the past have cited both the lack of eyelashes and the blank background as support for the theory that Vermeer was painting a conceptual, idealized image of a girl, so these newfound features could be evidence that an actual person posed for him in a specific setting. And, according to head researcher Abbie Vandivere, it’s not entirely a bad thing that we still don’t know who that person is.

“It is good that some mysteries remain and everyone can speculate about her. It allows people their own personal interpretation of the girl; everyone feels their own connection with the way she meets your eyes,” she told The Guardian. “The fact that she is still a mystery keeps people coming back and keeps her exciting and fresh.”

While we’re all pondering the puzzling origin of one of the most captivating models in art history, there are plenty of other fascinating revelations from the Mauritshuis investigation to talk about, too. For one, the Dutch artist evidently spared no expense in bringing Girl With a Pearl Earring to life: the raw materials he used to create various colors in the painting came from just about everywhere, including England, Mexico, Central America, and maybe even Asia or the West Indies. Ultramarine, a blue pigment derived from lapis lazuli (an export of what’s now Afghanistan), which Vermeer used for the girl’s headscarf and jacket, was more valuable than gold at the time.

The study also shed light on Vermeer’s painting methods. He began with broad brush strokes of brown and black paint, layering the girl on top of the background, and then made slight adjustments to her ear, the back of her neck, and the top of her scarf.

If “Girl in the Spotlight” has proven anything, it’s that there’s always more to discover about a work of art—and that’s just what the Mauritshuis intends to do.

“Please know that this is not the end point of our research, but an intermediate station,” Mauritshuis director Martine Gosselink said in a press release. “The collaborations are growing, and so is the desire to find out more.”

As you wait for more information to come to light, here are 15 fascinating facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring.

[h/t The Guardian]