f The Dissius Sale

"Dissius" Auction of 1696

Self Portrait by Van Musscher
Portrait of an Artist in His Studio
Michiel van Musscher
Bass Museum
Miami Beach, Florida

No. 3 "The portrait of Vermeer in a room with various accessories, uncommonly beautiful painted by him" 45-0

Although the well-known The Art of Painting in Vienna might conceivably fit the brief description of painting no. 3 of the Dissius auction catalogue, most scholars reject this hypothesis on the basis of the low price paid for the picture. The "portrait of Vermeer in a room" was sold for only 45 guilders while works of far smaller dimensions such as the Milkmaid and Woman Holding a Balance fetched 175 guilders and 155 guilders respectively.

It is unlikely that a richly complex work such as The Art of Painting was not appreciated by the same public was competent enough to distinguish the Milkmaid from lesser works of approximately the same size. Its ingenious perspective accuracy alone would have surely attracted greater interest.

The Art of Painting, Jojannes Vermeer
The Art of Painting
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662–1668
Oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Vermeer's art in fact, was once noted by a contemporary connoisseur precisely for the artist's skill in perspective. The art and practice of perspective was widely studied and held in high esteem and would have been an added value to the aesthetic qualities of a work of art. If we add the painting's extraordinary illusionist quality and the notable pictorial technique (again, both elements of painting that were held in high consideration) it seems impossible that The Art of Painting could have been underestimated, and even penalized to such a degree.