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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 20


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Dear Reader,

Admittedly, I am partial. International, blockbuster art shows often confuse me. Exasperated viewing conditions, which are evitable and seem an integral part of this kind of venture, got the best of me even during the monumental Washington/Hague 1994 exhibition which presented the great part of Vermeers artistic production. And although the dizzying amount of study that went into and issued afterwards from this landmark event provided all of us food for thought for years to follow, the impressions of the real objects I had actually seen remains hazy. Oppositely, I came away from the current Modena (Italy) Vermeer exhibition (see item no.1 below) both satisfied and stimulated.

The show itself presents only one Vermeer, A Lady Seated at a Virginal perhaps one of the artist's least-loved works. She is accompanied by 18 paintings by Dutch contemporaries (including four masterworks by Pieter de Hooch) and 12 rare objects of utmost relevance to Vermeer's composition. However, the contents of the exhibit has been selected and displayed with such acumen that it was hard not to come away from it without a vivid idea of the cultural and artistic environment of those times and of Vermeer's place in it. Vermeer's young lady, who in art history literature fares badly in comparison with the his earlier canvases, is afforded a stage she deserves. Although the painting lacks some of the chromatic charm of the earlier works, the Modena exhibit creates an appropriate context and helps reveals the painting's extraordinary, but not facile, beauty which may escape observation.

All the best,
Jonathan Janson


Vermeer: La ragazza e i pittori di Delft
April 15–July 15, 2007
Galleria Estense
Modena, Italy (curator, Bert Meijer of the Dutch Institute in Florence)

After the disappointing showing of The Love Letter in Rome, another Vermeer has traveled to Italy. The London Lady Seated at a Virginal and other fine Dutch works are currently exhibited at the Galleria Estense in Modena until July 15th. The initiative is promoted by the superintendent of the gallery Maria Grazia Bernardini in collaboration with Bert Meijer, noted specialist active in the Dutch Institute of Florence. The exhibit features 18 other key works from collections from The Hague, London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Washington, Los Angeles, Boston and Florence.

The exhibit encompasses three areas of interest. The first is dedicated to Delft and its immediate environs. The second will present various facets of daily life of the second half of the seventeenth century focused around works of Pieter de Hooch and other masters who worked in or close to Delft. The third section features Vermeer's late A Lady Seated at a Virginal flanked by two pictures of analogous theme. One can compare Vermeer's astounding rendition of the virginal with two rare exemplars made by the renowned Ruckers family and a viola da gamba similar to the one in the lower left-hand corner of the composition. A few steps away is Dirck van Baburen's bawdy Procuress from Boston which appears behind the seated girl and was once owned by Vermeer's mother-in-law Maria Thins. The direct comparison between Baburen's full-blooded creatures and the calculated mosaic-like rendition of Vermeer is enlightening as to the Delft master's powers of pictorial transformation.

see these links for further information:




A. Golahny, Mia M. Mochizuki, L. Vergara
Amsterdam Press
isbn 978 90 5356 933 7
16 x 24 cm. 496 pages,


Collected in memory of the Vermeer scholar and Yale economist J. Michael Montias, these essays take into account the latest trends in the field and provide new data on a wide range of topics in Netherlandish art. Themes include the reception of paintings and architecture; art collecting as interpreted through inventories and other documents that reveal modes of display; relationships between patrons and painters; recently found or attributed works of art; artists as teachers; and the art market. Taken together, these focused studies offer fresh perspectives on the historical appreciation and evaluation of art. Drawing upon J.M. Montias' contribution to art history, these 32 essays present new analyses, attributions and documents on Netherlandish art and material culture—including the work of Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Eyck and others—by internationally known scholars of art history and the economics of art.

Of particular interest are those essays directly related to Vermeer:

  1. Albert Blankert, The Case of Han van Meegeren's Fake Vermeer "Supper at Erasmus" Reconsidered
  2. Yoriko Kobayashi-Sato, Vermeer and the Use of Perspective
  3. Herman Roodenburg, Visiting Vermeer: Performing Civility

Wayne E. Franits
100 pages, 7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
34 color and 25 b&w illustrations
ISBN 978-0-89236-844-0


book review from the Getty website:

In the hush of early morning, a dutiful mother butters bread for her young son, who patiently stands at her side. This splendid painting captures a trivial moment in a family's daily routine and makes it almost sacrosanct. A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy was executed by the Dutch painter Pieter de Hooch (1629–1684) between 1661 and 1663. The J. Paul Getty Museum's canvas is one of the artist's many pictures depicting women and children engaged in daily activities. This book examines the painting in relation to the artist's life and work, exploring his stylistic development and his complex relationship to other painters in the Dutch Republic. The author places the subject matter of the painting within the broader context of seventeenth-century Dutch concepts of domesticity and child rearing and ties it to social and cultural developments in the Netherlands during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Wayne Franits is professor of fine arts at Syracuse University and a specialist in seventeenth-century Dutch art. He is the author of numerous publications, the most recent being Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Thematic and Stylistic Evolution.



Although the modern-day city of Delft provides a splendid glimpse of seventeenth-century architecture and is well worth a visit when in Holland, unfortunately, not a single painting of its most renowned artist, Johannes Vermeer, has remained in loco. To mitigate the inevitable disappointment of the unaware visitor, the Vermeer Center multi-media center has been built to instruct and stimulate further inquiry concerning the life and work of Vermeer. The center finally in mid-April opened and from information kindly passed on by friends of the Essential Vermeer, it seems yet another reason to visit this most beautiful city of Holland. All the planned features should be up and running for the official opening in June. The center is housed in a reconstruction of the original Guild of Saint Luke which was torn down in the nineteenth century. I will shortly be adding a webpage to the Essential Vermeer which will provide more information images.

from the Vermeer Center website:

The Vermeer Centre offers a visual voyage of discovery through the life, work and city of Johannes Vermeer. The visitor steps into seventeenth-century Delft, sees samples from Vermeer's oeuvre, goes in search of his mentor and the stories behind the paintings. In the studio, the visitor learns how Vermeer approached his work and about his mastery of light, composition and color. With the aid of seventeenth-century lenses, 'goggle boxes', pigments and contemporary media, the visitor studies the paintings of Vermeer in depth, but the magic of his masterly work remains. The Vermeer Centre is housed on the historic site of the former Saint Lucas Guild, where Vermeer was Dean of the painters for many years.

Vermeer's world
In the world of Vermeer, you experience seventeenth-century Delft. Wandering through the famous View of Delft and encounters with Vermeer's environment and the breeding ground for his talent: the blossoming academic and artistic climate in Delft, his customers, his family and his wealthy mother-in-law. In Vermeer's world, life-size images of all his paintings have been brought together. An oeuvre of 36 paintings in which Vermeer created a whole new world.

Vermeer's studio
A whole floor dedicated to Vermeer's approach to his work. How did Vermeer paint his incredible pictures full of light, tranquility, harmony and mystery? In the light studio, you discover how Vermeer experimented with light. You can experiment with the camera obscura and, like Vermeer, play with color, views and perspective. Here too, you literally step into a Vermeer painting.

Temporary exhibitions and a Vermeer lab
The magic of Vermeer's work still inspires and fascinates artists, scientists and art lovers today. Every year, temporary exhibitions feed this fascination with a range of themes and media. For current dates, see www.vermeerdelft.nl
In the Vermeer lab, visitors can explore the world of Vermeer through interactive media and encounters.

Voldersgracht 21
2611 EV Delft

31 (0)15 - 213 85 88


Essential Vermeer Website Additions

by Adelheid Rech

A special five part study of the carillon and carillon music in the time of Vermeer with more than 12 MP3 audio files and a WMA video of a carillon performance.

The tolling bell may proclaim, give warning, summon, cheer, or spread tranquility. Its tone may in turn be merry, delicate, solemn, or mournful. Furthermore, it evokes patriotic, romantic and religious sentiments and serves to unite a community by lending it a public voice. In precisely the years of Vermeer's artistic activity, bell-founding and carillon-mounting had reached the peak of a first flourishing in the Netherlands which was one of the most important facets of the Dutch cultural heritage. This five-part study examines every aspect of the carillon from the beginning of this most complex of all musical instruments, to the days of Vermeer.

Essential Vermeer Website Additions


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

The Procuress

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