Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 27



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

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 the painter's artistic formation and early works. Hence, The Young Vermeer, which will travel from Dresden (3 September–28 November, 2010) and lastly to Edinburgh (10 December, 2010–13 March, 2011), will be the first chance to view the artist's formative early works in close proximity and shall no doubt will 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.

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

Van Meegeren's Fake Vermeer
12 May–22 August, 2010

from the museum website:
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, presents Van Meegeren's Fake Vermeers, an exhibition of ten famous forgeries of Han van Meegeren. Most are in the style of Johannes Vermeer, but the works also include forgeries of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Gerrit ter Borch. The exhibition explores Van Meegeren's technique, his masterpieces and his downfall.

Van Meegeren's technique remains exceptional. For his masterpiece The Supper at Emmaus, Van Meegeren used a genuine seventeenth-century canvas and historical pigments. He bound the pigments with bakelite, which hardened when heated to produce a surface very similar to that of a seventeenth-century painting. This technique, combined with Van Meegeren's choice of subject matter and composition, was an important factor in convincing so many people of the authenticity of his works. This exhibition takes place in association with The Young Vermeer exhibition in the Mauritshuis. Visitors of both exhibitions will get a discount on the normal ticket price in either of the museums.

The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Painting from the Städel Museum
Guggenheim Bilbao
8 October, 2010–13 February, 2011
Bilbao, Spain

from the museum website:
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao hosts this fall a complete exhibition of works from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main. The exhibition will feature iconic works by the leading masters of the Golden Age, offering an interesting reflection on how this period-a time of extraordinary historical and artistic interest-promoted the development of new pictorial genres and the redefinition of other traditional ones such as landscapes, portraits, still lifes, or historical paintings. The Geographer by Vermeer, opens the exhibition, which also boasts works by great names such as Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Dirk van Baburen, and Frans Hals.


The Music Lesson is frequently inaccessible to the general public. It will hang in Buckingham Palace, in the State Apartments picture gallery for the months of August and September, 2010.

Chrysler Museum of Art, in Norfolk, Virginia.
1 June, 2010–1 September, 2010

The only privately held Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at the Virginals will be on temporary exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art, in Norfolk, Virginia.

Curator of Northern Baroque painting at the National Gallery of Art Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. will explain what makes a Vermeer a Vermeer in a free evening lecture exclusively for Museum Members in the Kaufman Theatre (7:00 pm, Thursday, June 17, 2010).

Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667)
4 September – 5 December, 2010
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Curator: Dr. Adriaan E. Waiboer

from the museum website:
This exhibition will pay homage to the Dutch seventeenth-century artist, Gabriel Metsu and his exquisite scenes of daily life, which rank among the finest of the Dutch Golden Age. It will also highlight some of Metsu's lesser known achievements in the fields of history painting, portraiture and still life. Metsu started his career in Leiden, where he painted biblical scenes on a large format. Few of his colleagues were as versatile as Metsu and his handling of the brush was almost unrivalled. Moreover, his paintings display a unique approach to daily activities, marked by a psychological interest in the people he portrayed. An accompanying catalogue will be published to coincide with the exhibition.

other venues:
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (16 December, 2010–20 March, 2011)
Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art (17 April – 24 July, 2011)

Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery
March 9, 2010, through May 30, 2010
Frick Collection, New York

The Dulwich Picture Gallery holds one of the world's major collections of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings. The exhibition, which heralds the Gallery's bicentenary in 2011, reintroduces American audiences to this institution's collection through an exceptional group of works, to be shown exclusively at the Frick Collection.

For Vermeer enthusiasts Gerrit Dou's A Woman Playing a Clavichord, the probable model for his Lady Seated at a Virginal in London, is not to be missed.


Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632–1675) (in German only)
Dr. Nils Büttner

Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632–1675) had a formative influence on our ideas of the Dutch Golden Age. Yet during his lifetime there were few indications of his later fame. His incomparable genre scenes came to typify his work. Nils Büttner's concise and lively introduction traces the painter's life, presents his work in its historical and social context and explains the pictures' symbolism, still often regarded as mysterious.

Les mensonges de Vermeer (in French only)
by Michael Taylor

Focusing on the paintings (among them View of Delft, The Milkmaid, Woman with a Balance and Girl with a Peal Earring amassed by Vermeer's leading collector, Pieter van Ruijven, Taylor probes the mystery of the artist's relationship with his patron and why, during one of the most turbulent periods in European history, it centered on some of the most serene images ever produced in art.

Teasing out the hidden meaning of small, seemingly secondary details in these paintings—hands and secret smiles, shifting patterns of floor tiles, empty chairs, maps, pearls, rugs, pictures and pitchers, windows and shutters, fur and satin and plain linen—Taylor tracks down Vermeer's use and reuse of items in his daily environment to create a series of deeply poetic images that maintain a balance between eloquence and silence, evidence and enigma, lies of commission and lies of omission. Using the same oblique approach that characterizes his earlier book, Rembrandt's Nose, Taylor shows how Vermeer's painting transforms familiar reality into a strange and beautiful illusion that transcended the circumstances of his own life and that of his contemporaries.

Vermeer, Lairesse and Composition
by Dr Paul Taylor

In May, Waanders intend to publish the Hofstede de Groot-lecture, Vermeer, Lairesse and Composition, given by Paul Taylor at the RKD on March 5th. Focusing on the discussion of composition in Gérard de Lairesse's Groot Schilderboek, Taylor argued that those who write of the "balance" or "equilibrium" of Vermeer's compositions are using concepts that were probably not available to the painter himself. He also suggested that if Vermeer's paintings look "balanced" this may tell us more about our pictorial interests than about Vermeer's.

A Painting without Genre: Meaning in Jan Vermeer's The Girl with the Wine Glass
by Margaretha Rossholm Lagerlöf
Konsthistorisk Tidskrift/Journal of Art History, 78: 2, 77–91

TRAVEL GUIDE FOR ART LOVERS (Vermeer in Delft included)
Art + Travel Europe: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters
Museyon Guides, (March 16, 2010)

Art + Travel Europe is a new guidebook that explores five European cities through the eyes of the artists who lived, loved and labored there. Intended for frequent flyers and armchair travelers alike, the book combines dramatic true stories from the artists' lives along with a crash-course in art history and practical travel tips.

In Delft, readers will go on a hunt for the location of The Little Street, see the scene of a sixteenth-century assassination and visit Vermeer's final resting place in the Oude Kerk. Then they can go on to discover Caravaggio's Rome, Van Gogh's Arles, Goya's Madrid and Munch's Oslo.

In the News


The Rijksmuseum has just announced that as a part of an ambitious conservation program Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter will be thoroughly restored.

Other than Vermeer's masterwork, other pieces will restored and ready for the 2013 reopening of the Rijksmuseum. They include six burial figures from the T'ang Dynasty, a mahogany period room from 1748 called The Beuning room, and the Silver table ornament by Jamnitzer which is one of the absolute highlights of the museum's collection of European silversmither.

from the Rijksmuseum website:
As it is flanked in the exhibition room by Vermeer's two other masterpieces, The Milkmaid and The Little Street, it is even more noticeable that Woman in Blue Reading a Letter is in distinct need of restoration. The coat of varnish has turned yellow, the blue is worn, the uneven layer of paint is peppered with minor irregularities, the retouches have faded, etc. Precisely that which is so appealing in Vermeer's paintings—i.e. the bright colors and the incidence of light—is now hidden behind an irregular yellowed layer of varnish.


In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as Boston police officers talked their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, bound two guards, and stole artwork valued at $500 million, including three Rembrandts, Vermeer's Concert and five sketches by Degas. The identity of the thieves and the whereabouts of the artwork remain a mystery. Two decades after a pair of thieves dressed as Boston police officers pulled off the biggest art heist in history, the FBI is trying to stir up new leads with two billboards on Boston-area freeways that promise a $5 million reward. The FBI has also resubmitted DNA samples for updated testing, the Associated Press reports.

Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, said Clear Channel Outdoor began running an FBI poster yesterday on two of its digital for more information. The billboards are on I-93 in Stoneham and I-495 in Lawrence. He said the FBI poster seeking information on the Gardner theft will probably remain on the billboards for at least four weeks. He estimated that 117,000 people pass by the Stoneham billboard and about 81,000 pass by the one in Lawrence daily.



Recently, the Frick Library has provided an invaluable internet interface with the database compiled by Montias during his studies.

from the Frick website:
The Montias database, compiled by late Yale University Professor John Michael Montias, contains information from 1,280 inventories of goods (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, etc.) owned by people living in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Drawn from the Gemeentearchief (now known as the Stadsarchief), the actual dates of the inventories range from 1597–1681. Nearly half of the inventories were made by the Orphan Chamber for auction purposes, while almost as many were notarial death inventories for estate purposes. The remainders were bankruptcy inventories. The database includes detailed information on the 51,071 individual works of art listed in the inventories. Searches may be performed on specific artists, types of objects (painting, prints, drawings), subject matter etc. There is also extensive information on the owners, as well as on buyers and prices paid when the goods were actually in a sale. While not a complete record of all inventories in Amsterdam during this time period, the database contains a wealth of information that can elucidate patterns of buying, selling, inventorying and collecting art in Holland during the Dutch Golden Age.

Girl with a Pearl Earring: Social Media Seventeenth-Century Style

The vast majority of contemporary attempts to have fun at Vermeer's expense are less than satisfactory or, more frankly, downright bad. This is definitely NOT the case with costume designer Pauline Loven's exquisite 30-second video which connects the ostensibly distant worlds of modeling for the great Delft Master and the global social media phenomenon.

The video is short as it should be, perfectly timed and tastefully nuanced in content and aesthetics. Those in the know about the worldly English diarist Samuel Pepys will intuit his link to the 21st-century social networking phenomenon but only the experts will understand Pepys' playful response to the girl with a pearl earring which I won't reveal here. To discover that and the little nuances that makes this video so appealing a visit to Pauline's blog entry is recommended.

For the first time someone remade a silk turban that really looks like Vermeer's turban and Samuel Pepys couldn't have been more in role.

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