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Celebrating Vermeer: Six Vermeer Surveys

1 Which is your favorite painting by Vermeer? initiated: August 22, 2020
2 Do you believe that A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals is an authentic painting by Johannes Vermeer? inititiated: July 27, 2020
3 Do you believe the St. Praxedis is an authentic painting by Johannes Vermeer? initiated: July 27, 2020
4 What are your feelings about Vermeer's newly restored Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window? initiated: September 19, 2021
5 Is the Girl with a Flute an authentic painting by Vermeer? initiated: January 5 , 2024
6 Do you believe that Vermeer used a camera obscura as an aid to his painting? initiated: August 27, 2020

Discover, Participate, and Share Your Views
Welcome to our dedicated space where the timeless works of Johannes Vermeer are not just admired but also become a canvas for your thoughts and opinions. Whether you're a seasoned art historian or someone who has just stumbled upon the enigmatic beauty of Vermeer’s paintings, your perspectives are valuable and eagerly awaited.

Your Voice Matters
Vermeer's art, a blend of mystery and mastery, has intrigued and challenged art lovers for centuries. While scholars have delved deep into the technical and historical intricacies of his works, there are still many aspects that remain open to interpretation. This is where your unique viewpoint becomes crucial. You don’t need a degree in art history to feel the impact of Vermeer's paintings or to form meaningful opinions about them.

Art is a Personal Journey
Remember, in the realm of art, there's no right or wrong answer. Your instinctive reactions, feelings, and thoughts are as important as the most scholarly analysis. Vermeer's art isn't just a subject of academic study; it's a living, breathing entity that resonates differently with each viewer. So, let your intuition guide you as you explore these surveys.

We encourage you to embark on this journey of discovery and insight. Share your opinions, compare them with others, and perhaps, in the process, see the art of Johannes Vermeer in a new light.

Before you vote, feel free to explore our resource links. They offer insights into the fascinating world of Vermeer, providing context and background that might just change the way you look at his art.

Surveys


1. Which is your favorite painting by Vermeer? Below are thumbnails of the thirty-four universally accepted works by the hand of Vermeer with three that are currently debated. Single click on your preferred painting, then scroll to the bottom of the thumbnail gallery to cast your vote or view the results collected thus far.

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Saint Praxedis
1655
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 82.6 cm.
Kufu Company Inc. (on long-term loan to the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

2. Is the Saint Praxedis an authentic painting by Johannes Vermeer?

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In recent years only two new painting has been seriously proposed as an addition to Vermeer's canon: the Leiden Collection Young Woman Seated tat a Virginal and Saint Praxedis, a virtual duplicate of an original 1645 painting f the same name by the Florentine painter, Felice Ficherelli, whose nickname was il Riposo. Saint Praxedis was a second-century Roman Christian who, along with her sister, Pudentiana, cared for the often-severed bodies of those martyred for their faith.

After the painting appeared in a 1969 show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Michael Kitson, an art historian with the University of London, endorsed its very tentative attribution to Vermeer. But his recommendation became much more meaningful when, in 1986, the curator of Northern Baroque painting at the USA's National Gallery of Art, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., gave his imprimatur. During the heralded Vermeer exhibit held in Washington D.C. and The Hague in 1995–1996, Wheelock displayed Saint Praxedis prominently; it shared an opening room with Vermeer's two large early history paintings, Diana and her Companions and Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. The painting received little attention for years until it was exhibited as an authentic Vermeer during the major Vermeer retrospective held in 2023 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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Baron Rolin A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals
c. 1670
Oil on canvas, 25.2 x 20 cm.
Leiden Collection, New York

3. Is A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals an authentic painting by Johannes Vermeer?

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On March 30, 2004, Sotheby's announced the sale of A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals (not to be confused with the London painting of a similar theme and title) as an authentic painting by Johannes Vermeer. This small, unsigned canvas (approximately 25 x 20 centimeters) was first identified by modern collectors at an Amsterdam sale in 1814. Since 1960, it has been held in the private collection of Baron Freddy Rolin in Brussels, who passionately believed in the painting's authenticity. Although the work never elicited more than a lukewarm critical response, experts such as Hofstede de Groot, Phillip Hale, and P.T.A. Swillens had accepted it as an authentic Vermeer. Lawrence Gowing included only a photograph of it in his 1952 monograph but did not provide a comment on its artistic merits. In a later publication, he referred to it as a "melancholy relic." The painting's fortune began to change when Walter Liedtke, curator of the comprehensive Vermeer and the Delft School show in New York and London (2001), decided at the very last minute to include it in that exhibition, even though it was not included in the catalogue.

Despite acceptance by important Vermeer experts, a number of art specialists do not support the work's authenticity. In a scathing article, critic Brian Sewell peremptorily rejected the painting, labeling it a "dud." In 2023, Jonathan Janson, the founder of Essential Vermeer, illustrated the technical and compositional weaknesses of the painting in a lecture at the International Vermeer Symposium held during the Vermeer retrospective at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

resources:


Girl Reading a Letter at an Open WindowGirl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1657–1659
Oil on canvas, 83 x 64.5 cm.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

4. What are your feelings about the restored Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Vermeer?

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Following a major restoration completed in 2021 of Vermeer's Girl Reding a Letter at an Open Window, a large ebony-framed painting of Cupid on the wall behind the reading girl was revealed, as well as brighter colors concealed fro centuries by heavy, yellowed layers of varnish. Many have changed their view or interpretation of the painting, now that the "painting-within-a-painting" has been revealed as part of the original work, covered up, presumably, by someone long after Vermeer died.

The existence of the concealed Cupid was first detected in 1979 during an X-ray analysis of the painting. Researchers suspected at the time that Vermeer himself had painted over the Cupid image, leaving a blank white wall behind the young woman. In 2017, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s painting conservator, Christoph Schölzel, began a more comprehensive inspection of the canvas that revealed the overpainting was added sometime during the eighteenth century, after Vermeer’s death.

The restoration of the painting has radically altered the painting's appearance. While many art historians and art afficionados have accepted the results, not all are satisfied, with some believing the Cupid, in particular, should have never been exposed.

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A portable camera obscura

5. Did Vermeer us an optical device called the "camera obscura" as an aid to his painting ?

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The painting of Vermeer is often associated with the use of the camera obscura, an early optical device that projects an image of its surroundings onto a screen. This device is considered by some art historians and researchers to be a tool Vermeer may have used to trace his compositons and achieve the extraordinary light effects and spatial accuracy in his paintings. Some supporters, such as theLondon architect Philip Steadman and the English painter David Hockney, strongly support the idea that Vermeer used the camera obscura.

Other art historians, such as the late Vermeer expert and curator of Nothern Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walter Liedtke argue that Vermeer's techniques could have been achieved through traditional painting methods and a deep understanding of light and perspective. Some consider that the use of such of a device would be tantamout to cheating.

Despite the compelling arguments, there is no conclusive evidence that Vermeer used a camera obscura, as it leave sno trace on the artist's canvas. Nor have any historical documents been found that directly indicate Vermeer's use of this device.

resources:


Girl with a Flute, Johannes VermeerGirl with a Flute
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1665–1670
Oil on panel, 20 x 17.8 cm.
National Gallery of Art , Washington D.C.

6. Is the Girl with a Flute an authentic work by Vermeer?

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The National Gallery of Art’s painting Girl With a Flute has been hovering on the edges of the authentic Vermeer canon for decades. Following a two-year investigation during the Covid-19 period, the Gallery announced that new research, including sophisticated imaging analysis, has definitively proved the work to be the product of someone likely close to Vermeer, but not the painter himself, may finally push the work out of contention for authenticity. Or maybe not. It has been in and out of the canon for so long it is unclear whether any research would ever convince all the skeptics. The curators of the Vermeer retrospective at the Rijksmusem in 20023, the curators Pieter Roelofs and Gregor Weber included the work as an authentic painting by Vermeer's hand.

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If you discover a or anything else that isn't working as it should be, I'd love to hear it! Please write me at: jonathanjanson@essentialvermeer.com