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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 21

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Dear Reader,

First of all, I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you my sincerest Holiday Greetings knowing that another newsletter might not be forthcoming before the end of 2007.

Vermeer continues to be honored by special exhibitions; this time The Milkmaid pays her respects to Japan or vice versa. One can't help but wonder about the consequences of shipping a 300 year old painting half-way around the world and back, perhaps flying over the Arctic Circle or equally hostile terrain. The images on the exhibition website of elaborate packing and shipping, no doubt, made to reassure the weak at heart, produce in me quite the opposite effect.

Anyone who frequents the Essential Vermeer website has noticed that the graphic layout has been recently completely remade and if one is inclined to a bit deeper, he will also notice that the underlying code has been completely restructured using, I hope, a fairly strict version of CSS. Fine tuning will go on behind the scenes for months. The domain has also changed to http://www.essentialvermeer.com/ giving me far more space.

This chore took about 6 months; I'd say an average of 5 or 6 hours a day of coding every day of the week. Why? First, the CSS structure separates content from code and allows an incredible flexibility for future changes. Almost magically, one may change, for example, the links style or font of the whole site (now more than 600 pages) in a blink of the eye. This allows efficient fine tuning and importantly, it produces good code that search engines find much easier to digest and facilitates loading time as well. This all means a much better site and now, far more time for contents, which is what you are surely most interested in.

By now, you may also know that all the information of the Essential Vermeer is free and it will remain free and it is going to grow. However, there are costs. If you think that it is important to help the Essential Vermeer expand, there is an easy way to do it. Here is how it works.

The Essential Vermeer maintains affiliate relationships with both Amazon.com and Art.com. By purchasing books or prints through these two websites, the Essential Vermeer receives a small percentage of the cost. Remember, your purchase does not create any additional cost to you. So here is all you have to do. Log on the Essential Vermeer and go to any one of the "Essential Vermeer Bookshop" links listed on the home page and click on any link that takes you to the Amazon.com website. Thereafter, any purchase you make, whether it's a book listed on the bookshop page or not, will generate affiliate earnings from the time you click to 24 hours period. The same goes for the Art.com site which has the widest collection of prints and posters on line. You can find that link ("prints and posters" at the top of each page. Keep in mind the Holiday Season and after especially if you are a frequent Amazon user like me.

All the best and do excuse my appeal,
Jonathan Janson


The National Art Center, Tokyo
September 26–December 17, 2007

Johannes Vermeer's The Kitchen Maid, also affectionately known as The Milkmaid, is being loaned temporarily to the National Art Center in Tokyo, Japan, where it will be on display from 26 September until 17 December, 2007 as part of the exhibition Milkmaid by Vermeer and Dutch Genre Painting from the 17–19 century introduced with 116 masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

The National Art Center, Tokyo
7-22-2 Roppongi Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan

direct inquiries to:
The National Art Center, Tokyo
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Japan 106-8558

URL http://www.nact.jp

check the special exhibition website (Japanese only)
URL http://milkmaid.jp/


by Timothy Brook
Bloomsbury Press
December 26, 2007

book description:
In the hands of an award-winning historian, Vermeer's dazzling paintings become windows that reveal how daily life and thought—from Delft to Beijing—were transformed in the seventeenth century, when the world first became global.

A painting shows a military officer in a Dutch sitting room, talking to a laughing girl. In another, a woman at a window weighs pieces of silver. Vermeer's images captivate us with their beauty and mystery: What stories lie behind these stunningly rendered moments? As Timothy Brook shows us, these pictures, which seem so intimate, actually offer a remarkable view of a rapidly expanding world. The officer's dashing hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons. Those beaver pelts, in turn, financed the voyages of sailors seeking new routes to China. There—with silver mined in Peru—Europeans would purchase, by the thousands, the porcelains so often shown in Dutch paintings of this time. Moving outward from Vermeer's studio, Brook traces the web of trade that was spreading across the globe.

"For those who think they have mastered all the ins and outs of the seventeenth century Netherlands and particularly the country portrayed by the marvelously stay-at-home Dutch painters, Timothy Brook's fine book provides a shock. By way of Vermeer's pictures, he takes us through doorways into a suddenly wider universe, in which tobacco, slaves, spices, beaver pelts, China bowls, and South American silver are wrenching together hitherto well-insulated peoples. We hear behind the willow-pattern calm the crash of waves and cannon. A common humanity with a shared history comes about, with handshakes and treaties, shipwrecks and massacres, as trade expands and the world shrinks."
- Anthony Bailey, author of Vermeer: A View of Delft

by Benjamin Binstock
February 1, 2008

Johannes Vermeer, one of the greatest Dutch painters and for some the single greatest painter of all, lived a quiet life and produced a remarkably small corpus of work. In Vermeer's Family Secrets, Benjamin Binstock revolutionizes how we think about Vermeer's work and life. Vermeer is famously a mystery in art: there is scant information on his life and training, and nothing to connect him to any students. What remains is the paintings themselves as well as some historical information and surmise.

Lavishly illustrated with more than 130 black and white images and more than 90 color plates, the book also includes a remarkable color gatefold spread that presents the entirety of Vermeer's oeuvre arranged in chronological order in 1/20 scale, demonstrating the relative size of the paintings over the artist's career. No book on Vermeer has ever done this comparison of scale, nor has any book presented for visual comparison the complete output in this fashion. Like Poe's purloined letter, Vermeer's secrets are sometimes out in the open where everyone can see them. Benjamin Binstock shows us where to look. Piecing together evidence, the tools of art history, and his own intuitive skills, he gives us for the first time a history of Vermeer's work in light of Vermeer's life. On almost every page of Vermeer's Family Secrets, there is a perception or an adjustment that rethinks what we know about Vermeer and his oeuvre.

Perhaps the most arresting revelation of Vermeer's Family Secrets is the final one: stumped by inconsistencies in technique, materials and artistic level, Binstock posits that several of the late paintings—ones accepted as canonical works by Vermeer—are in fact not by Vermeer at all but by his eldest daughter, Maria. How he argues this is one of the book's many pleasures.

by Donald Eaton

book description:
In April of 1653 Johannes Vermeer married Catharina Bolnes. He was twenty and she, just twenty-one. Their marriage was opposed by her mother and the Catholic church. Vermeer was in the final year of his long apprenticeship and his ideas about art and its meaning were just forming. Faith is the story of three winter months before that marriage—the most important months of his short life.

author's statement:
The novel, Faith, started out as a puzzle and grew into something far more comprehensive and profound. My original idea was to write about Vermeer's wife, Catharina and her efforts to regain the painting, The Allegory of Art, after his untimely death. To do this, I knew I would have to go back to the beginning and explain how a Protestant innkeeper's son could meet, love and marry the daughter of a wealthy Catholic woman. Nothing at all is known about these events except that they actually happened. That was the first puzzle. In order to solve it, I would have to connect the young artist to his world: Delft in Holland's remarkable Golden Age. This led to further puzzles: With whom did he study? Who influenced him? Where did he paint? The list goes on and I was determined to solve these questions in an accurate and probable way. Apart from building a small but comprehensive Vermeer library and spending countless hours on the web, I traveled to Delft (exactly one year ago this month) and walked his streets and felt his presence. These impressions, I trust, are captured in the novel.

However, Faith is not a mere finger exercise in Art History or biography. The people involved in this story were artists, collectors, patrons, agents for powerful corporations, merchants, soldiers and priests, all driven by their personal passions and the heady power of their time. That world and those people form the background for Faith, but it is a genuine and challenging love story that is at the center of it, as it should be.

In the end, I feel that I succeeded in exploring that world, but at a cost. One novel could not hold it all and do justice to it. Faith would have to be the first in a series and I knew that I could write them. So, as it turns out, Faith covers not "years" in Vermeer's life but only two and a half winter months at the end of 1652. Still, as a single novel, it is complete and all of the elements mentioned above are explored in it. The second novel in the series, Fire, will cover his marriage, entry into the Guild of Saint Luke, several early paintings including Saint Praxedis and the death of Karel Fabritius.


(sources: Algemeen Dagblad / Den Haag = AD; local newspaper 'De Volkskrant'.
Rodimedia:: news from the region Delft, Radio-TV West)

Since Friday, 14th September 2007, the new Vermeercentrum in Delft, opened April 20 2007, had to close its doors for the visitors. In short time the Center had came into conflict with enormous debts (according to the sources c. 600..000 Euros or even more). Despite all efforts of the Center's staff, above all director Anne-Floor van Tilburg, and credit by the municipality of Delft for the regular payments until beginning of October, the Center was declared bankrupt on Thursday, 20th September, 2007. Moreover, several creditors tried to forcefully get the merchandise from the gift shop so that the police had to be called and the Center had to be closed for reason of security.

(AD 16th September, 17th September, 20th September 2007, ditto other sources)

On Monday, 24th September, more than 80 business people, Delft citizens and friends of the Vermeercentrum and other enthusiasts started an action in the city for the preservation of the Center in Delft.

The Stichting Vrienden van Vermeer (Foundation Friends of Vermeer) which had been founded on 19th October 2004 (the name day of Saint Luke, the patron of the art of painting and the guilds named after him) for support of the Vermeercentrum Delft, had also called the burghers of Delft "not to abandon the Vermeercentrum."
(AD 21st and 23rd September 2007).

As a result of public action a new foundation has been created by several Delft businessmen and interested citizens: "Behoud het Vermeercentrum aan de Voldersgracht" ("Save the Vermeercentrum at the Voldersgracht"); as there were plans to give up the new building of the Center (built according to the ancient Guild of Saint Luke) and place the Center within the Stedelijk Museum "Het Pirnsenhof" (see AD 19th September 2007). This new foundation has been founded to unite and co-ordinate the different actions on behalf of the rescue of the Center.

The deadline to deliver bids for the Vermeercenter was Thursday, 18th October 2007. Short before this date, there were only a few interested candidates. Only the municipality of Delft (as one of the principal creditors) and one single business /politician were concrete candidates for the takeover. (AD 12th October 2007). In a literally, "last minute effort," the new foundation "Behoud het Vermeercentrum aan de Voldersgrach" delivered a concrete bid, together with a "business-plan" for the possible future running of the Center. (AD 18th October 2007). This bid has been accepted by the responsible curator, who is still in negotiations with the various parties.

In the meantime the single interested person has withdrawn his bid, so that the new foundation will probably be the new owner of the Vermeercenter (29th October 2007). Herman Weyers, director from the Evenementenbureau Delft and chairman of the new foundation "Behoud het Vermeercentrum aan de Voldersgracht," expressed his confidence in a successful new start with the support from many sides. He hopes to get the keys to the Center within the next weeks. (AD 4th November 2007).

Essential Vermeer Website Additions

by Adelheid Rech

Constantijn Huygens is almost unknown to English readers and students—if he is known at all, it is in that peculiarly frustrating and gratifying fashion, as the father of a famous son, Christiaan Huygens, the physicist. During his own lifetime, however, few Hollanders were better known outside their country than Constantijn Huygens. Huygens is interesting in particular for the documented ties he had with artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn. Scholars have also convincingly linked Huygens and his circle to Vermeer. This five part illustrated study by Adelheid Rech presents readers with an excellent overview of this multi-talented man.

Click here.

In collaboration with Adelheid Rech

What does Vermeer's View of Delft look like today? How much has Vermeer's Delft remained? This multi-part study lets the reader explore the places in Delft which were significant to the artist's life and work. The study is correlated by a wealth of images with the new "lightbox" image-display feature.

Click here.

A short history of the hidden church of Vermeer's marriage in Schipluiden-Hodenpijl
by Adelheid Rech

Scholars have hypothesized that Vermeer converted to Catholicism upon his marriage to Catharina Bolnes and that their union was celebrated in a hidden Catholic church in the nearby village of Schipluiden. Adelheid Rech has done some meticulous on-the-spot detective work investigating the fascinating subject of Dutch Catholic hidden churches. The study is richly illustrated with pertinent period and contemporary images.

Click here.

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