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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 28

Essential Vermeer Newsletters 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 /11/ 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 /32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37/ 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44



Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
September 3 - November 28, 2010

The Young Vermeer exhibition, which centers around Vermeer's first works as a history painter (Christ in the House of Martha and Mary and Diana and her Companions) and his foray into genre painting (The Procuress) reaches its second destination in Dresden.

The gallery's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, in the permanent collection of the Gemäldegalerie but absent in the other two exhibitions, is also on display. After more than 250 years, this work will now be displayed in a typical Dutch decorative frame for the first time. A selection of important artistic craftworks, such as furniture, vases, glasses and dishes, will accompany the presentation.
Visitors may view 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 created by academy students and teachers.

Chrysler Museum of Art

Thanks to the generosity of its owner, Johannes Vermeer's Young Woman Seated at a Virginal will be on display at the Chrysler Museum of Art for the rest of 2010.


Every month during the Gallery's bicentenary celebration year a spectacular masterpiece will hang on the end wall of the Gallery's enfilade, echoing the huge popularity of the sixteenth-century copy of the Mona Lisa, which brought visitors from all over the world in 2007. In March 2011 The Music Lesson, which is rarely on public display, will be on temporary exhibit.



Even though all are not enthused by Vermeer's heavy airline schedule, the Girl with a Pearl Earring will again see the blue skies over the Asian continent on its way to Japan. The first exhibition is from July to September 2012 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the second October to December 2012 at the City Museum Kobe.

Made in Holland - private collection of Dutch paintings at the Mauritshuis
4 November, 2010–30 January, 2011


from the Mauritshuis website:

Not all Old Master paintings are in museums; superb works also grace the walls of fine private collections all over the world. One of these is an American collection of Old Masters that is not open to the public. The Mauritshuis has secured the loan of the best works from this collection for an exhibition in the fall of 2010.

A selection of paintings has been made that are not only extraordinarily beautiful, but also in excellent condition. Works from this collection have occasionally been lent out to exhibitions in the United States and abroad. However, this is the first time that a broad selection from this outstanding collection will be presented in the Netherlands.

The exhibition features paintings by famous artists such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Hendrick Avercamp. Many other artists are represented as well, including Gerrit Dou with one of his rare still lifes, and Frans van Mieris the Elder with a genre scene.

The Golden Age of Gesina ter Borch
October 17–January 19, 2011
Stedelijk Museum Zwolle, Melkmarkt 41, Zwolle

Text drawn from - Gesina ter Borch komt thuis in Zwolle, Weblog Zwolle

Gesina ter Borch (1631–1690) is one of the best kept secrets of Zwolle. Few know her name or her beautiful work. Gesina drew on situations of daily life on a small scale, as was fitting for women of the time. Her sometimes naughty drawings were published only in her home town: the fate shared most by women artists in the Golden Age. The Stedelijk Museum Zwolle has chosen a large selection of her work from the Rijksmuseum, where most of her work is conserved, to be displayed.

Gesina is principally known as the half-sister of the famous painter Gerrit ter Borch, one of the most accomplished Dutch painters of his age known for his renderings of luxurious satin gowns. Gerard knew Vermeer personally and his work had a profound impact on his younger Delft colleague. It is well known that Gesina posed for numerous paintings by Gerard but more importantly and rarely considered, she made beautiful illustrated books and miniatures in watercolor of her own. Her favorite theme was the interaction between men and women, sometimes fighting each other with fire tongs and shoes and sometimes courting. She was able to treat lovemaking explicitly or with a subtle, elegant kiss on the hand. The scenes are often set in or around Zwolle. Only a few people outside the family knew her drawings.


Oud Holland, Quarterly for Dutch Art History
2010 (vol. 123) no. 1
Adriaan Waiboer

Art historians have devoted few words to Vermeer's influence on his contemporaries and traditionally assumed that his impact was marginal, as the bulk of his small output was owned by a handful of Delft collectors. This article hopes to demonstrate that, in fact, several leading Dutch genre painters of the third quarter of the seventeenth century admired and borrowed elements from Vermeer's work, among them Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Emanuel de Witte, Caspar Netscher, Gabriel Metsu, Cornelis de Man, Jacob Ochtervelt, Gerrit ter Borch and Michiel van Musscher.

These artists made variations on twelve, possibly fifteen of Vermeer's works, which equals to more than one-third of the artist's extant oeuvre. The article attempts to answer questions such as: where could Vermeer's contemporaries have accessed these works? What aspects of his paintings were they interested in? Which works did they ignore and for what reason? What role did Vermeer's presumed patron, Pieter van Ruijven, play in all of this?

"A trip too far for Vermeer?"
Girl with a Pearl Earring heads to Japan despite previous problems at Kobe museum
by Martin Bailey
The Art Newspaper
from issue 216, September 2010, published online 23 Sep 10

Should the fragile and irreplaceable Vermeer paintings travel? Martin Bailey takes a behind-the-scene look at the Mauritshuis' loan.


The catalogue (in German only) contains new essays not published in preceding catalogues of the same exhibition held in The Hague and Edinburgh.

Albert Blankert - "A Young Artist in Search of his Destination."
Blankert reviews the article "Why is Vermeer so Revered?" and reasons upon Vermeer's early Catholicism as well as the Delft artist's turn to his interiors scenes in the light of his patron Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven. Also included is a comparison of Vermeer's Diana and "The Procuress" with works by the German painter Jan Liss.

Uta Neidhardt – "Johannes Vermeer's 'Procuress: An Experiment with an Open Issue?"
Within less than a decade, the young Vermeer passed through themes of classical Dutch painting and Dutch Caravaggism reaching his definitive transformation into an unsurpassed painter of inner calm and contemplation. His early Procuress already anticipated the early interiors.

Uta Neidhardt – "Johannes Vermeer's 'Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window'. A talented young painter orienting himself."
Neidhardt explores the acquisition and rediscovery in Dresden of the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window and describes the work with special focus on light, reflections, effects on the various surfaces and Vermeer's extraordinary talents and technique. Light is shed on the question of whether Vermeer followed the general artistic trend of that time complying with the specific ideas of his patron or realized independently with his figural interiors. Also considered are inconsistencies pointing to a complex process of development in several stages of the otherwise perfectly composed and brilliant picture.

Christoph Schölzel – "The development of the 'Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window' by Johannes Vermeer. "

Rainer Groh and Daniel Lordick - "Reverse Painting – Notes to the reconstruction of the room in Vermeer's painting 'Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.'"

Michael Franses - "Oriental carpets in paintings by Vermeer."

Juliane Gatomski – "On doubting and marvelling. The Dutch natural sciences in the seventeenth century."

Ivo Mohrmann – Thomas Scheufler - "From the room to the picture and back. Staging a room at the Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden."

Documentary film "Blaue Punkte auf blondem Haar" [Blue Dabs on Blond Hair] to the Dresden exhibition 'Der frühe Vermeer', available as DVD.

The documentary film (c. 36 min.) presented in the exhibition provides at first various aspects of Vermeer's early working methods discussed by the responsible curator and chief conservator, with rare insights into the scientific analyses of the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window with x-ray photographing, microscope and infrared reflectography. Furthermore the responsible docents from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and the Technical University Dresden tell about the development and stages of the reconstruction of the room rendered in the painting which enables the visitor to literally step into the painting and experiment with the various objects to learn about Vermeer's art of composition.

The film is available as DVD either in the museum shop of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister or via the 'Publikationsvertrieb' of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, mail to: Istvan.Lerner@skd.museum

"Why is Vermeer so revered?"
Theodore K. Rabb in The Art Newspaper 208 (December 1, 2009, pp. 39–40)

Taking off from a recent comment that Vermeer has now eclipsed Raphael as the exemplar of beauty in art, and exceeds most other painters in popularity, Rabb seeks to explain why an artist of such limited oeuvre and subject matter, who inspired no followers, should receive higher critical praise than his contemporary, Rubens, who, even leaving aside "his ability to command an enormous range of subject matter and emotion, and to astonish with technique" is a "painter whose versatile and probing studies of previous masters put him at the very center of the story of western art." Unlike Vermeer, moreover, Rubens remained for centuries one of the most influential painters of all time. To explain this contrast, Rabb points to the "steady devaluation of history in both British and USA culture," in which "an artist's historical importance is easily devalued." Rabb's second consideration is "that recent generations have lost the capacity to appreciate the Biblical, classical and historical references that infuse Rubens' paintings. As cultural horizons contract, the private and domestic supplant the public and the grand. It may not be irrelevant that a Vermeer is likely to be visible only to a few people at one time, whereas a Rubens can tower over a crowd. We may be living, in other words, in an age that prefers small pleasures to large."

(Unfortunately, my Vermeer radar failed to pick up Prof Rabb's article when it was published last year.)

Essential Vermeer Website Additions

An Interview with Paul Taylor

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Vermeer's art has been championed as an example of the "art for art's sake" doctrine which held that art was valuable as art and did not require any sort external justification. Art was no longer judged for its moral, didactic or political message but for its formal values. From then on, art was largely discussed in terms of style, color, line, shape, space and composition. Although in the last half of the century art historians have correctly realigned Vermeer's art within the context of his time, authoritative Vermeer experts have continued to eulogize the uncanny formal compositional arrangements of his quiet interior scenes. In their discussions, one of the terms most frequently associated with the artist's compositions is, no doubt, "balance."

Paul Taylor, who has extensively investigated seventeenth-century European and Dutch art theory, has taken a fresh look at the question of Vermeer's composition marshaling convincing evidence that we may have to rethink some of our unquestioned assumptions about how Vermeer went about arranging his pictorial designs.

Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art

from JHNA website:
JHNA is the electronic journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. Founded in 2009, the journal publishes issues of peer-reviewed articles two times per year. These articles focus on art produced in the Netherlands (north and south) during the early modern period (c. 1400-c.1750), and in other countries and later periods as they relate to Netherlandish art. This includes studies of painting, sculpture, graphic arts, tapestry, architecture and decoration, from the perspectives of art history, art conservation, technical studies, museum studies, historiography and collecting history. Translations into English of significant articles published previously in other languages will appear from time to time as well. In future, the journal will engage in other forms of presentation made possible by digital technology. These may include interactive images, short videos, community blogs, photo essays with commentary, as well as groups of articles commissioned by the editors.

In the News


In 1771, the schooner Frau Maria sank near Finland while it was transporting treasures for the Hermitage Museum purchased at an auction in Amsterdam for Catherine the Great. After its rediscovery in 1991, archival research has turned up papers concerning the auction which reveal that onboard were 27 works by Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Hendrick Van Balen, Gerrit ter Borch (perhaps Vermeer's most talented colleague) and Jan Van Goyen.

Experts hope the paintings were packed into special lead containers coated with wax for the overseas voyage making it theoretically possible that the canvases have survived in good shape. The Russian imperial riches are said to be the most important underwater discovery ever, presenting unprecedented historical and monetary value. The Frau Maria dragged below dozens of bronze sculptures, hundreds of porcelain objects as well as countless gold and silver coins. Art lovers around the world consider the collection to be priceless, while antiquarians give it the tag of 500 million to 1 billion euros.

Russia said it would be ready to pay for raising the Frau Maria, the ITAR-TASS news agency reports citing Artyom Tarasov, the head of the "Saving national cultural and historical values" charity foundation.

Finland has submitted the $80-million project to raise the schooner by 2017 and turn it into a museum. Mr. Tarasov said that his foundation was ready to finance the project if one of the lead containers is raised from the sunken ship to assess the value of the paintings.

According to experts, unlike Jacques Yves Cousteau's nautical missions which involved the swift lifting of objects from the bottom of the sea, the operation with Frau Maria needs more scientific planning.

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