Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 25



Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
September 10, 2009–November 29, 2009

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage to Manhattan from Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum has sent The Milkmaid to the Metropolitan Museum. The MET has staged Vermeer's Masterpiece The Milkmaid, a special exhibition that brings together all five paintings by Vermeer from its collection, along with a select group of works by other Dutch artists, placing Vermeer's picture in its historical context. Along with The Milkmaid, works by Pieter de Hooch, Gabriël Metsu, Nicolaes Maes, Emanuel de Witte, and Gerrit ter Borch will be on view.

The MET has done a nice job of presenting the exhibition on their website with links, MP3 audio files (including Liedtke's explanation of the Milkmaid) and even a video. Well done.{EC38F2E1-BA19-4D5F-845F-A5C44CB90A9E}&HomePageLink=special_c2b

Liedtke's MP3 of the Milkmaid.{EC38F2E1-BA19-4D5F-845F-A5C44CB90A9E}&HomePageLink=special_c2b

August 8, 2009–January 10, 2010
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Minneapolis, MN
Gallery 344

This exhibition is scheduled to coincide with The Louvre and the Masterpiece and the important loan to the MIA of Vermeer's Astronomer from Paris. The Night Sky will bring visitors into the scientific and cultural world of the seventeenth-century astronomer through a focused examination of the prints, books, scientific instruments, and other objects that Vermeer depicted in his intriguing and breathtakingly beautiful painting.

event website:

The Dutch Golden 7 October, 2009–7 February, 2010

The exhibition will put on an outstanding ensemble of over one hundred and thirty pieces, including about sixty paintings, thirty graphic works (drawings and water-colors) ten etchings as well as ten objects to give an extremely visual representation of that period (carved ivories, tapestries, china, wooden miniatures, silverware, glassworks and furnishings). Among the paintings on view will be Vermeer's Love Letter.

exhibition website:

18 October, 2009–10 January, 2010
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Louvre and the Masterpiece, first shown in the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, explores how the definition of a "masterpiece" (here: Vermeer's Astronomer) as well as taste and connoisseurship, have changed over time. Paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, and drawings will reflect three major themes: the changing historical and cultural definitions of a masterpiece; authenticity and connoisseurship; and the evolution of taste and scholarship.

exhibition website:


by Walter Liedtke

On the occasion of the current exhibition, Vermeer's Masterpiece: The Milkmaid the Metropolitan Museum of Art has published a concise, generously illustrated booklet to accompany the exhibition. This 36-page catalogue discusses the painting's style, meaning, place within Vermeer's oeuvre, its first owner and later history. The author reveals that a long tradition of amorous milkmaids and kitchen maids in Netherlandish art is continued here with such subtle understatement that the artist's intentions have been misunderstood for generations.

available at the MET bookstore:

also available is the handsome exhibition poster:

In the News


The heirs of the prominent Czernin family want the Austrian government to return Vermeer's Art of Painting which they say was sold by force to Adolf Hitler in 1940, a newspaper said Saturday. Allegedly, Count Jaromir Czernin sold Vermeer's masterpiece to the Nazi dictator "to protect the life of his family," his descendants' attorney told Der Standard. The painting is housed at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum since 1946.

"We are convinced that the Austrian republic will treat this case in an open and honest manner," said the family attorney adding that he had filed the request on August 31. The culture ministry confirmed Saturday that it had received Theiss's request and would transmit it to a committee tasked with issuing opinions on restitutions. The family had already asked for the painting to be returned in the 1960s, but their requests were rejected on the basis that it had been sold voluntarily and at an appropriate price.

Hitler had expressed interest in acquiring the painting as early as 1935 to put it in the Fuehrer Museum which he planned to build in the Austrian city of Linz. During the winter of 1943/1944 Hitler transferred the painting to safety in the tunnels of the salt mines Altaussee. Special service units of the American Army retrieved The Art of Painting and other works of art from the tunnels in spring 1945.


In an article by Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper revealed how a painting that supposedly was made by Han van Meegeren, one of the most successful forgers of all time, is now believed to have been painted in the seventeenth century.

The work in question, The Procuress, has been housed at the Courtauld Institute in London since 1960 when it was given as a donation from Professor Geoffrey Webb, a specialist in historic architecture. Webb had no illusions concerning its authorship; he believed that it was a forgery by Van Meegeren. Scientific examination at the Courtauld confirms that the picture could date from the seventeenth-century since the canvas is old but more significantly, there is no evidence that any modern pigment was used.

Two other versions of The Procuress already are present in public museums. The first is owned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which, however, lists it as a copy. Another emerged in 1949 from an English private collection and was auctioned at Christie's before being bought by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Scholars now believed this one to be the original by Dirck van Baburen.

This bit of news may be relevant to Vermeer studies since it is well known that Vermeer included just such a procuress motif in the background of two of his compositions, The Concert and the Lady Seated at a Virginal. Baburen's Procuress or a copy of the original, probably corresponds to one in the 1641 inventory of Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, described as "a painting wherein a procuress points to the hand."

Martin Bailey's article at Art Newspaper

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