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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 26

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25 January – 25 April, 2010
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Maria Theresien-Platz, Vienna


The Art of Painting has a unique place in Vermeer's oeuvre. Although it was very likely not executed as a commission, it never left the artist's studio. Even after Vermeer's death, which left his family ridden with insurmountable financial problems, his widow Catharina tried to prevent a sale of this precious painting. Most likely, it was made as a showcase piece to be presented to connoisseurs and potential customers. The exhibition investigates a number of facets of this most complex of Vermeer's compositions.

Besides extensive technological studies regarding the work's state of conservation, several issues are faced including its complex iconographic structure. Some of the props in the picture will be on display; a period chandelier, tapestry, wallmap as well as a reconstruction of a slashed doublet worn by the painter. The exhibition organizers have also created a 1:1, 3D reconstruction of environment represented in Vermeer's masterpiece following the drawings of the London architect and Vermeer/camera obscura expert, Philip Steadman. A large camera obscura was subsequently employed to obtain images. Some photos of the camera obscura images will be included in the exhibition.


Other questions are investigated as well. Does the painting represent Vermeer's real studio? What does the painting reveal about Vermeer's working methods? Which pigments did painter utilized? How was the composition developed? Did the painter make use of optical devices?

Numerous loans from European and American museums and private collections and historical documents from Dutch archives provide a springboard for discovering Vermeer's masterpiece.


The Young Vermeer
The Hague, Mauritshuis
May 12–Aug 22, 2010

Dresden, Old Masters Picture Gallery
Sept 3–Dec 28, 2010

Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland
end of 2010–February 2011

Although Vermeer's art has been consecrated by numerous special exhibitions for decades, until now, no single exhibition has focused on the myriad questions of painter's artistic formation and early works. Hence, The Young Vermeer which will travel from The Hague to Edinburgh and lastly to Dresden, will be the first chance to view Vermeer's formative early works in close proximity and shall no doubt be a milestone in Vermeer studies. All three venues feature Vermeer's Diana and her Companions, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary and The Procuress. These three works have been completely restored so they can be appreciated in all their youthful intensity. The Dresden venue will also comprise their Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

An exhibition catalogue will provide visitors with in-depth investigation to this subject by distinguished experts of Dutch art.

The Dresden venue of the exhibition seems to be particularly rich. An ambitious educational project, based on recent investigations of the Dresden Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, will include a full-scale, scientifically elaborated reconstruction of the room represented. The reconstruction will to be presented to the public next week. A website, currently under construction but already rather promising, will further explore Vermeer's masterpiece.

Moreover, the educational project includes a 20-minute film which focuses on the early Vermeer paintings and the Dresden paintings (The Procuress and Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window). Numerous lectures during are planned as well as an anthology, comprehending short literary texts by different authors dealing with the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

Burg Dankwarderod
12 July, 2009–31 December, 2012

Due to the complete renovation of the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in the coming years, the most important works will be on view in the nearby Knights Hall of Burg Dankwarderod, including Vermeer's early Girl with a Glass of Wine. The exhibition architecture is designed to make an overview over the different art historical eras, from antiquity to contemporary art possible.

see the museum website notice (in Germans only):

In the News


A hitherto unrecorded and unpublished painting by Cesar van Everdingen, A Girl Holding a Balance of Plums, was recently sold at Sotheby's for a tidy sum. Artdaily.com has it that the work was "subject of considerable bidding battle this evening. It saw interest from six potential buyers who competed strongly and whose determined bids took the price to 1,161,250 GBP, which was 16 times the pre-sale estimate of 50,000-70,000 GBP." Luckily, the painting can be inspected with the zoom feature on Sotheby's website accompanied by valuable background information. http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=159569305.

Bred on the precept that only the blunt and the rough signal sincerity, Cesar Van Everdingen's elegant paint handling and sometimes aloof subject matter does not always excite non-specialists. And yet, his superlative technique and enviable sense of pictorial synthesis was held in high esteem in Vermeer's time, higher than Vermeer's.

Critics have long pointed to Van Everdingen's hand for the large-scale, idiosyncratic Cupid that appears in three works by Vermeer, its boldest appearance being in A Lady Standing at a Virginal (it also starred in the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window but was later painted out by artist himself). However, Vermeer's interest in Van Everdingen may have gone beyond citing the Cupid as a convenient iconographical prop. Walter Liedtke, in his recent complete catalogue of Vermeer, points out a stylistic kinship between the extraordinarily economical treatment of the head of the mistress in the Frick and Van Everdingen's Still Life with a Bust of Venus in the Mauritshuis.

To be sure, Van Everdingen's A Girl Holding a Balance of Plums is a big brash picture and at first glance about unVermeer-like as you can get. Yet her outrageous hat which projects a suggestive shadow over her eyes, her seductively parted lips may and "exotic" appeal to the viewer may not be lost on those who know Vermeer's Girl with a Flute. The challenging rendering of the hat's geometrical design could have stirred Vermeer attention, fascinated by the curious perspective of the decorative stripes on his own oriental hat. Since art-history detective work is neither one of my talents nor ambitions, I gladly leave such matters to those more qualified than I.

Labortheater, Dresden Academy of Fine Arts

On 24th November, the so-called "experiment-room," a life-size, 1:1 reconstruction of the scene in Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, was presented to the public at the Labortheater of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Academy students and teachers developed and realized the exact replica which will later become the central part of the extensive educational program for the upcoming The Young Vermeer exhibition in its Dresden venue.

By stepping into the reconstructed room, visitors will be able to grasp more concretely Vermeer's painting process, the manner in which employed perspective, light and shadow, whether he used a camera obscura, and above all, the his unsurpassed sense of composition.

Not only were the objects now visible in the painting faithfully replicated, but those which Vermeer had later overpainted such as a crystal goblet and a large painting of a Cupid. Thus, with a bit of imagination one can directly experience Vermeer's "art of omitting" which transformed a somewhat theatrical scene into a more intimate one focused on the silent act reading of a letter a love letter.

The girl's smart yellow jacket (none have survived) was recreated according to scientific research as a diploma project by students of the theatrical costume design department. On special occasions a young female student will model as the reading-girl in the scene. Otherwise life-size figure made specifically by the students will stand in for the live model.

for an image and a short video (German text) see:



2009, color, HD, 52 min
Director - Hans Pool
Photography - Hans Pool
Screenplay - Koos de Wilt

Views on Vermeer:12 Short Stories will be aired in Christmas Eve in the Netherlands

Youtube.com trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTGXd-wT8_A


producers synopsis:
Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) left us a small oeuvre of only 36 paintings. Internationally, the power of his work is now more profound than ever. Blockbuster exhibitions, the novel and movie Girl with a Pearl Earring caught a broad audience. Millions are touched by his work. What do we see in Vermeer that makes him so contemporary? The dignity of his painted ladies, the cinematic and photographic character of his images, the psychological impact, the serenity or apparent glimpse in our own everyday life? Influential contemporary artists, photographers and opinion leaders unravel the extraordinary and mysterious impact of this seventeenth-century master in our day and age.

A Film by Hans Pool and Koos de Wilt.


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