Websites of Museums with Vermeer Paintings in their Collections
By now, almost any self-respecting art institution has digitized some part of its collection. However, the design of the typical "virtual museum" frequently fails to rise above the level of a database intended more for administrative purposes than for the public. The artworks are often shown at low resolution if not in thumbnail format, precluding any meaningful experience on the part of internet navigators. Some museums have are attempting to reach a wider audience by including custom-made content via some innovative presentation form.1 Others have assumed a wait-and-see attitude.
What is certain is that digitalization, which can no longer be postponed, raises existential questions for art institutions. How will the elevated costs of digitalization be recovered? Why go to a museum if you can enjoy the same artworks at your leisure on the nearest computer monitor? By overexposing works of art, will their "aura" be diminished, as Walter Benjamin predicted? Will paintings become "marketing instruments" in the hands of powerful museums? Furthermore, some institutions feel that the loss of the economic control over their intellectual property assets will erode their unquestioned authority as the custodians of the cultural value of the objects they possess and as gatekeepers of authenticity.
The most recent development in digital strategy of artworks of the past is the so-called "open content" policy pioneered by the Rijksmuseum, the Getty and the Washington National Gallery of Art. These forward-looking institutions provide not only free access to high-quality images of the objects in their collections of a level unthinkable only a few years ago, but have lifted any copyright restrictions whatsoever in the hopes of encouraging engagement of the general public with art and stimulating contemporary artistic production.
In regards to the Open Content Project recently launched by the Getty CEO Jim Cuno stated "The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief," Thus, the move to offer high-quality images of their artworks free of copyright and fee is "an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity." In any case, there is little doubt that technological innovation is reshaping the role and mission
of museums as producers and distributors digital images exposing them contemporarily to threats and opportunities which are only now coming in to view.
Almost all of the institutions which house one or more Vermeer paintings have a website in which their Vermeer works are represented in some way. Some have allotted low quality images and minimum information while other, such as the Rijksmuseum, the Metropolitan of New York and the National Gallery of Washington provide navigators with in-depth information and spectacular high-resolution digital images. Furthermore, a few museum website few provide innovative tools for exploring art history such as timelines and essays on special topics. These sites have been signaled with four or five stars.
It is now possible to download, free of charge digital images of an increasing number of Vermeer paintings.
If you are traveling specifically to see one or more painting paintings by Vermeer, always contact the museum beforehand to be sure it is on display at the moment you plan to visit. Paintings are frequently on temporary loan or in restoration.
|New York Metropolitan Museum of Art||New York, U.S.A.|
|National Gallery of Art||Washington D.C., U.S.A.|
|National Gallery||London, England|
|Frick Collection||New York, U.S.A.|
|Musée du Louvre||Paris, France|
|Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie||Berlin, Germany|
|Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie||Dresden, Germany|
|Städelsches Kunstinstitut||Frankfurt am Main, Germany|
|Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum||Brunswick, Germany|
|Kunsthistorisches Museum||Vienna, Austria|
|National Gallery of Ireland||Dublin, Ireland|
|Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (n.g.)||Boston, U.S.A.|
|Kenwood House||London, England|
|The Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace||London, England|
|National Gallery of Scotland||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|The Leiden Collection||New York, U.S.A.|
museum home page: http://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/
Despite its limited number of artworks, Het Mauritshuis (in English, "The Maurice House") remains one of the most renowned art collections of Europe. Its approximately 800 paintings, primarily of Dutch Golden Age, comprise first-rate works by Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter and Frans Hals, as well as several works of the German painter Hans Holbein the Younger. Originally the residence of count John Maurice of Nassau, the seventeenth-century building of the Mauritshuis is the property of the government of the Netherlands, and is listed in the top 100 Dutch heritage sites.
The exterior of the Mauritshuis has been renovated several times since it was finished in 1644. Recently, an ambitious expansion project is being carried to create a museum suitable for the 21st century. The entrance will be moved to the front courtyard, restoring the stately appearance of the Mauritshuis. The surface area of the entire museum will be doubled, creating more space for art, exhibitions, education and events. The collection is planned to reopen in the summer of 2014. During the renovation much of the collection was on display in museums in the Netherlands and abroad. Along with the Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, made an extensive tour in Japan, the United States and Italy. The building plans for the Mauritshuis can be followed at www.mauritshuisbouwt.nl.
The reduced size of this museum, plus the ambience and exceptional qualities of the pictures on display make the Mauritshuis one of the most congenial places for getting to know Dutch seventeenth-century painting. The gallery houses the Girl with a Pearl Earring, the View of Delft as well as an early work, Diana and her Companions.
The Mauritshuis has recently published a brand new introductory catalogue on Johannes Vermeer. This kind of publication, a handy volume, is of great use even in the Age of Internet. It is loaded full with crisp images of many Vermeer's paintings and numerous details and a host of relative documents and work of other artists. The text is expertly written and extremely informative. Especially valuable are the large reproductions of the three works by Vermeer.
Vermeer's in the Mauritshuis collection: Girl with a Pearl Earring, View of Delft and Diana and her Companions.
On the occasion of its reopening, the Mauritshuis has also renovated its website and has added new high-resolution image of their Vermeer's paintings which can be viewed with a zoom feature or downloaded to one's hard disk. The downloadable images are lower resolution than the zoom versions. The design of the Mauritshuis website is elegant, visuals refined and navigation presents no problems. The site also offers short films, the latest news and practical information.
museum home: page http://www.frick.org/
The Frick Collection is one of the pre-eminent small art museums of the world, with an exceptionally high-quality collection of old master paintings and fine furniture housed in six galleries within the former residential mansion of the American industrialist, Henry Clay Frick.
Built in 1913–14 from designs by the firm Carrère and Hastings, the Frick is set back from Fifth Avenue by an elevated garden punctuated by three magnificent magnolia trees, not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since After Frick's death in 1919, his daughter, Helen Clay Frick continued to expand the collection. Frick left 137 paintings on site at The Frick Collection but an additional fifty paintings in all have been acquired over the years by the Trustees from an endowment provided by the founder and through gifts and bequests.
The building restored and opened to the public on December 16, 1935 and restored again in 1977 and in 2011.
Many of the collection's paintings remain arranged according to Frick's original design. The collection features some of the best-known paintings by major European artists, as well as numerous works of sculpture and porcelain. It also has eighteenth century French furniture, Limoges enamel and Oriental rugs. Although the museum cannot lend the two-thirds that belonged to Frick, as stipulated in his will, the Frick Collection does lend artworks and objects acquired since his death. Besides its permanent collection, the Frick has always organized small, focused temporary exhibitions.
Established in 1924, the Frick Art Reference Library quickly became a prime resource for art historians and students. The library's collections focus on art of the Western tradition from the fourth century to the mid-twentieth century, and chiefly include information about paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints and illuminated manuscripts.
The Frick Collection website has been completely revamped, with the addition of an array of new programs and features. The site's layout is sober and visuals are agreeable. Content is well organized and navigation presents no problems. For Vermeer enthusiasts, the "Zoomify" feature permits viewers to inspect all three of the collection's Vermeer's in truly impressive detail. Unfortunately, integral high-resolution digital images of the Frick's artworks cannot be downloaded to the user's hard disk due to its restrictive copyright policy.
In 1998, the Frick Collection was one of the first art museums to offer a Virtual Tour. Due to its popularity it was updated and expanded to include all of the public spaces and gardens. The tour features links to the prime works of art and a history of the galleries and architecture. A full screen version is also available. Vermeer enthusiasts will want to visit the South Hall where the Officer and Laughing Girl and the Girl Interrupted in her Music are hung. In the opulent West Gallery Vermeer's Mistress and Maid keeps company with a group of absolute masterworks of European painting, displayed in what is perhaps one of the most user-friendly environments for art lovers on the planet. From a fixed point in each room, the viewer can rotate his line of sight 360 degrees allowing him to get a feel of the unique ambience for which the Frick is rightly renowned.
In collaboration with Google Art Project, the Frick has also developed a Virtual Tour of the Frick Collection using Street View technology famialiar to everyone who makes use of Google Maps and Google Earth. Street View technology allows the visitor to move about the museum premise as he or she pleases rather being constrained to view the environment from a single, predetermined point. However, the Street View touring tehcnology still appears ill adapted for such particular environments such as musuems which steward some of the most profound manifestations of human genius. Technical glitches are to be expected, navigation can be frustrating and colors are more often than not disappointing—some critics question its end utility as a means for communicating the museum experience.
For the art historian and researcher, the Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library has published various online databases including the Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America, and the unique Montias Database of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art Inventories, created and donated by the America economist turned Vermeer biographer. Again, for art historians, the Frick Image Archive can be useful.
The Library's book and photograph research collections relate chiefly to paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints and illuminated manuscripts from the fourth to the mid-twentieth centuries by European and American artists. Known internationally for its rich holdings of auction and exhibition catalogs, the Library is a leading site for collecting and provenance research.
The collections of the Frick Art Reference Library can be searched using the online catalog, FRESCO. It contains records for the book collection, photo archive collection, auction catalogs collection, microform collection and electronic resources.
FRESCO is available on site at the Library or off site using a computer with an Internet connection and a Web browser.
FRESCO (Frick Research Catalog Online)
museum home page: http://www.louvre.fr/en
The Louvre's painting collection is one of the richest in the world, representing all periods of European art up to Impressionism. The Louvre's collection of French paintings from the fifteenth to the 19th century is unsurpassed in the world, and it also has many masterpieces by Italian Renaissance painters and Flemish and Dutch painters of the Baroque period.
The department of medieval, Renaissance and modern art objects displays the treasures of the French kings—bronzes, miniatures, pottery, tapestries, jewelry and furniture—while the department of Greek and Roman antiquities (which includes Etruscan art) features architecture, sculpture, mosaics, bronzes, jewelry and pottery.
Atlas allows the direct online consultation of 35,000 works of art exhibited in the Musée du Louvre. Online visitors can access the basic information displayed on labels accompanying works in the museum, together with authoritative commentary and analysis by the curators and staff. Visitors can carry out simple or advanced searches by keyword, artist, title, inventory number, medium, technique, department or room. Recent acquisitions are also highlighted. Atlas allows visitors to create a personalized album.
When printed, the selected works are grouped by location within the museum (wing and floor number).
Each entry in Atlas features:
– the same essential information as the work's museum label
– a photograph of the work in small and large size
– directions to its location in the museum
Since 1794, the Department of Paintings has been organized into national schools. At the end of the Grand Louvre Project, the Department of Paintings will cover an exhibiting area in the region of 17,850 m², which will be divided among the various schools.
Following the lead of other major museums, the Louvre has recently renovated its website. Oddly, scarce attention is brought to its two Vermeer masterpieces even though the museum boasts that The Lacemaker is the second most popular painting in its universally known collection. Considerable attention, instead, is given to selling museum tickets and prompting donations. The website may betray a certain elegance and state-of-the-art visuals, but contents, whatever they may be, are smartly hidden from view and the navigation experience is frustrating.
Inexplicably, the words "Lacemaker," "Astronomer," "Vermeer" and "Van der Meer" return no results using simple search of the Louvre's Atlas database. Although there is little to be gained, if the user gets smart and opts for the French version instead of the default English version, he is rewarded with a page dedicated to The Astronomer which presents minimal information and a truly desultory digital image, even when enlarged. If thumbnail image of The Lacemaker is clicked, a somewhat larger image of the picture does pop up, but the painting itself remains only a bit larger than a postage stamp seeing that the picture's oversized frame (decorated with a distracting floral motif inlay and black stripping) swamps the pocket-sized masterpiece. A "special feature" dedicated to The Lacemaker offers one image of the whole painting, two details, an image of the picture with frame and a bit more information than that of the minimal database entry.
museum home page: http://www.smb.museum/smb/home/index.php
The Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) possesses one of the world's finest collections of European art from the thirteenth to eighteenth century. After the collection was founded in 1830, it was systematically built up and perfected. The exhibition includes masterpieces by artists from every age of art history such as van Eyck, Brueghel, Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt.
The octagonal Rembrandt room enjoys a key position at the heart of the museum. The sixteen works by this artist form one of the largest and highest quality collections of Rembrandt paintings. They are flanked by additional gems of Dutch and Flemish painting of the seventeenth century. Portraits, genre paintings, interiors, landscapes and still-lives illustrate certain artists' preferences for particular types of themes.
After years of digital indifference, the Berlin Gemäldegalerie has begun to bolster their online presence, having recently added a page dedicated to each of their two masterworks by Vermeer, with explanatory text (in German only).
The world renown of the Dresden Old Masters Picture Gallery is founded on its outstanding collection of masterpieces of European art. Among the primary focuses of its holdings are Italian painting of the Renaissance—as exemplified by major works of Raphael, Giorgione and Titian—as well as works in the Mannerist and Baroque styles. Of equal significance is the inventory of Dutch and Flemish paintings of the seventeenth century. Not only are Rembrandt and his followers represented with a large number of works of superb quality, but the collection also comprises paintings by Vermeer (The Procuress and the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window), Jacob van Ruisdael and the great Flemish artists Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck.
The Dresden Old Masters Picture Gallery website offers one page for each of its two Vermeer's. Each work is presented with a medium-sized image, basic information and a comment (in German only).
museum home page: http://www.staedelmuseum.de/index.php?id=606
The Städel collection contains masterpieces that bridge seven centuries of European art: featuring magnificent paintings representative of the major schools and epochs of painting from the early 14th century to the present. The Städel owns some 600 sculptures of which only a small part is on display. The interplay between 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculptures is particularly engages viewers. The collections contains one painting by Vermeer, The Geographer.