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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 15

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May 22, 2005



'Love Letter' sets our arts aflutter
Natasha Robinson
April 28, 2005


Paintings by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer are scarce, but after years of negotiation with The Netherlands, one of them will hang on the wall of the National Gallery of Victoria. His tiny, seventeenth-century painting Love Letter will form the centerpiece of an exhibition called Dutch Masters from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

It was not only the Melbourne art world that was buzzing with the news of the loan yesterday. Federal Arts Minister Rod Kemp was already seeing the financial potential of the winter exhibition, to open on June 24.

The gallery's Impressionist show last year attracted 380,000 visitors, 80,000 of them from interstate and overseas. "It would be very nice to get near that figure again. It would be very nice to get beyond it," Mr Kemp said. The work will hang with paintings by Dutch masters Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Jan Steen. Love Letter is one of only three Vermeers owned by the Rijksmuseum, which is closed for renovations until 2008. The Dutch gallery was at first adamant it would not lend Australia one of its Vermeers, but the negotiating prowess of NGV director Gerard Vaughan and Carol Henry, chief executive of Art Exhibitions Australia, proved formidable. "They just don't lend their Vermeers," Dr Vaughan said. "They've done it once or twice, but very, very rarely, almost never. And so it wasn't on the agenda."

"But Carol was insistent on going back to Amsterdam and having one last try, and we got them over the line." That the Rijksmuseum's director, Ronald de Leeuw, proved malleable may have had something to do with his own family history. Dr Vaughan, who has known him for many years, said Professor de Leeuw was a great fan of Australia. His parents had once planned to emigrate to Australia and they gave their son the English-sounding name of Ronald, "so he would fit in." The federal Government has agreed in principle to insure the priceless work.


text and compilation by Epco Runia and Peter van der Ploeg of the Mauritshuis
published by Waanders Publishers and printers, Zwolle
2005 (Dutch/English)

This extremely elegant booklet provides first-comers and seasoned visitors to the Mauritshuis stimulating information about the three Vermeer paintings in the collection; Diana and her Companions. The Girl with a Pearl Earring, and The View of Delft. A number of facets of the artist's life and works are explored in this well-written text which is accompanied by a wealth of perfectly calibrated reproductions of Vermeer's paintings (including details) and historical documents. In 72 pages, one gains a look at many of the fascinating problems posed by Vermeer's enigmatic art.

information on how to purchase the guidebook can be obtained at:
Roline Offers
(the price, including shipment to an European country is Euro 21,20 by Standard - and Euro 22,65. by Priority Mail)


by Patton Dodd
85 minutes | Director: Rebecca Dreyfus

For museum devotees, the back-story of STOLEN need hardly be told. In 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston suffered the largest art heist in recent times. In the middle of the night, thieves disguised as policemen bullied their way into the gallery and lifted five Degas, three Rembrandts, one Manet, one Flinck, and, most famously, The Concert by Johannes Vermeer, now considered the world's most valuable piece of stolen art. Rumors and innuendo abound, but none of the works - valued together at over $300 million-have been recovered.

Stolen follows Detective Harold Smith, a renowned fine art detective, on the trail of the missing paintings. The trail is filled with forks, hairpins and myriad theories, involving (among others) South Boston's Whitey Bulger, Senator Edward Kennedy, and the Catholic Church. While Detective Smith pursues these leads, the movie also keeps us abreast of the museum's past.

Featuring the voices of Blythe Danner as Isabella Stewart Gardner and Campbell Scott as Bernard Berenson, Gardner's art advisor, Stolen keeps one foot in the history of the museum, and one foot in the modern chase for the goods, resulting in a fitting recognition of the fifteenth anniversary of the heist.

by Patton Dodd

On the Net


If you are interested in painting, art history and museums (with a Dutch focus), you should make a visit to "The Schwartzlist" at:


Here, you can subscribe free of charge to "The Schwartzlist" and stay informed through the refreshing opinions and experiences of the art historian Gary Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is the author of important publications on Rembrandt, Pieter Saendredam and Hieronymus Bosch and more. In 1998, Mr. Schwartz established and, until recently, directed the CODART website, an extremely valuable resource for anyone interested in Dutch and Flemish art.


Essential Vermeer Website Additions

INTERVIEW WITH LOUIS PETER GRIJP (Dutch Music in the Time of Vermeer)

Louis Peter Grijp (1954) studied the lute at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and musicology at Utrecht University. In 1975, still a student, he joined Camerata Trajectina playing the lute and cittern. Grijp wrote a dissertation on Dutch songs (Utrecht University 1991) and became a specialist of early Dutch music. Now he is special researcher at the Meertens Institute of Dutch Language and Culture. Mr. Grijp provides a brief but excellent overview of Dutch seventeenth century music and touches on the relation between Dutch contemporary music and Vermeer's paintings of music themes.

Click here.

INTERVIEW WITH IVAN KARP (Realism today and in seventeenth century Netherlands)

Ivan Karp is one of the principal discoverers and promoters of the Hyper-realist movement of American realist painting. In this interview I have attempted to explore with Mr. Karp some of the parallels and divergences between Hyper-realist movement and Dutch realism of the seventeenth century.

Click here.


Spurred by the enthusiasm with which the other interactive studies have been accepted, I have just added The Art of Painting and A Lady Standing at a Virginal to the list. This particular feature presents a large high quality image of Vermeer's painting and three related topics in text. By rolling your cursor over the questions, or any one of the dozens of different areas of the painting, you will access and instantaneous tooltip-popup boxes that furnish detail images and information.

The Art of Painting

A Lady Standing at a Virginal

DUTCH PRONOUNCED – extended audio MP3 files of Dutch pronunciation of the names of Dutch painters and art/history terms

Marco Shuffelen, a long-time friend of the Essential Vermeer, has continued to record the Dutch pronunciation of the names of Dutch painters, Vermeer's relatives, men of art, science and culture and various other related terms. For many of us, Marco's pronunciations solve not a few mysteries of Dutch pronunciation (how in the world are Leeuwenhoek or Huygens pronounced?) and help us capture some of the unique flavor of the Dutch world. You will find scores of new MP3 files conveniently scattered all over the site and in particular in these sections:

  1. A Gallery of Dutch Painters
  2. Interactive Study of Vermeer's family
  3. Seven Northern Masters
  4. Dutch Pronounced!

In the News


Market news: Vermeer gamble
Arts.telegraph, 25/04/2005

Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn is revealed this week as the mystery buyer of Vermeer's A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals at Sotheby's last July for £16.2 million. On Thursday, he opens Wynn Las Vegas, a new $2.7 billion resort complete with golf course, lakes, a fake mountain and an art gallery in which the tiny painting will be exhibited. Sotheby's spent years trying to establish that the painting, previously dismissed as a fake, was an original. Even then, not everyone was convinced. After the sale, Sotheby's described the buyer only as "anonymous," but its re-appearance in Las Vegas confirms that it was Wynn who took the gamble.


by Eileen Kinsella, New York, April 12, 2005

ARTnewsletter has learned that the Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector Steve Wynn was the buyer of Johannes Vermeer's A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, which will be shown in the Wynn Gallery at the opening of the new $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort on April 28.

Wynn bought the 8-by-10-inch painting, circa 1670, for £16.2 million ($30 million) at a Sotheby's auction in London last July. He declined to comment for this article. The painting was previously considered a fake and had been forgotten for 50 years. Eleven years of research by Sotheby's on behalf of Belgian owner Baron Frederic Rolin, who died before the sale took place, had established that pigments used in the work were typical of Vermeer, the style of hair and dress could date the work to 1670, and the canvas was cut from the same bolt of cloth as Vermeer's The Lacemaker, in the Louvre, Paris.

ARTnewsletter has learned Wynn told a close friend that, immediately after the auction on July 7, he had taken the painting to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was exhibited from August 11, 2004, until mid-April as a loan from a private collection. According to this source, Wynn said, "'I have a soft spot in my heart for Philadelphia, because when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I lived across the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art during my sophomore, junior and senior years.'"

Wynn has acquired a number of major artworks in the past few years, all of which will also be shown at the Wynn Gallery, sources further report. Among these is a painting by Pablo Picasso, Nature morte aux tulips, which Wynn privately purchased from French billionaire and Christie's owner François Pinault. The purchase price is not known. However, the same work fetched $28.6 million when it was auctioned at a Christie's evening sale in May 2000.

Last May, at a Sotheby's American paintings sale in New York, Wynn gave $8.8 million (estimate: $5/7 million) for John Singer Sargent's 1885 portrait Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife, one of several works sold by the auctioneer from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney.

Among other major recent purchases by Wynn: a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes, 1634, bought for £6.9 million ($11.3 million) at Sotheby's London in July 2003; a 1594 oil-on-copper landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder, bought privately in London; and a 1983 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Napoleonic Stereotype circa '44. Sources say he also bought back from the Bellagio Hotel an Edgar Degas pastel, Dancer Taking Her Bow, and two paintings by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro.

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