The mysteries of Johannes Vermeer


As an artist, he is hailed as a grasp for his use of sunshine, wealthy pigments, and the serenity of his inside scenes; as a person, nevertheless, Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer may be very a lot nonetheless a thriller.

His physique of labor – nearly three-dozen work – maintain among the solely clues to this as soon as just about forgotten 17th century artist. Right now, even one among his masterpieces is usually a museum centerpiece, which is what makes the exhibition on the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam extraordinary.

Twenty-eight of Vermeer’s work, the vast majority of his life’s work, have been assembled in what co-curator Gregor Weber calls a once-in-a-lifetime present.

“Christ within the Home of Mary and Martha” (1654–55), by Johannes Vermeer, on show as a part of the Rijksmuseum’s once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of a majority of the Dutch grasp’s works.

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Doane requested, “Have there ever been this many Vermeers collectively at any level?”

“No, no,” he replied. “I believe additionally Vermeer by no means noticed himself such an quantity of his personal work collectively.”

Weber mentioned he’d dreamed of such an exhibition, and the dream got here true as soon as he heard that the Frick Assortment in New York Metropolis, which owns three Vermeers, was going to shut for reworking. “And in the event you get them, then in fact you possibly can proceed amassing all the opposite ones,” he mentioned.

The Rijksmuseum already had 4. Others are on mortgage from all over the world: New York, Washington, Paris, Berlin. And what could also be Vermeer’s most acquainted portray, “Lady With a Pearl Earring,” has traveled from the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

“Lady with a Pearl Earring” (1664–67) by Johannes Vermeer. 

Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Weber likens “Lady With a Pearl Earring” to the “Mona Lisa” for her charming gaze. She impressed a guide, which grew to become a film. However her superstar got here late: “The portray was forgotten – forgotten, forgotten, forgotten, forgotten,” he mentioned. “And it turned up on the finish of the 19th century. A person residing in The Hague purchased the portray for slightly bit greater than two guilders (about $40 in the present day). That is nothing!”

How Vermeer was almost misplaced to historical past is a narrative which traces again to his hometown of Delft within the Netherlands.

Artwork historian David de Haan notes that, throughout Vermeer’s lifetime, neither the artist nor his artwork ever actually left Delft; his essential patron was there. “That did not do a lot good to his fame, the truth that he had only a small physique of labor and that a lot of the work stayed in Delft,” he mentioned. “However then, they moved into totally different personal collections.”

Vermeer painted slowly, nearly two items a 12 months. One in every of them was “The Little Road.” To seek out the placement of the constructing, a researcher used tax information.

Johannes Vermeer’s portray “View of Homes in Delft,” also called “The Little Road” (1658-59). 

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Marriage and demise information are additionally on show on the Prinsenhof Museum, the place de Haan is curator. “From that, now we have to kind of pieced collectively slightly little bit of perception into how his life was,” he mentioned. “It’s kind of of a puzzle.”

There aren’t any identified self-portraits, although some counsel a determine on the left in “The Procuress” might be the enigmatic painter who fathered 15 youngsters and died in 1675 at simply 43.

Element from “The Procuress” (1656) by Johannes Vermeer. 

Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.

His widow wrote that Vermeer was “unable to promote any of his artwork,” “lapsed into such decay and decadence,” and “as if he had fallen right into a frenzy,” immediately died. Paperwork reveal she traded Vermeer’s artwork to pay for bread.

“So, the native baker had these, what would wind up being, priceless artworks?” requested Doane.

“Yeah,” de Haan mentioned. “It is bizarre that you just think about now having a baker proudly owning three work by Vermeer? However that was truly the case.”

“View of Delft” (1660-61) by Johannes Vermeer.  

Mauritshuis, The Hague.

“View of Delft” could have saved Vermeer from obscurity. Practically two centuries after the artist’s demise, a French artwork critic, Théophile Thoré-Bürger, got here throughout the portray, describing it as “very good and most uncommon.” He grew to become obsessive about the then-obscure artist, and helped set up Vermeer as a grasp of the Dutch Golden Age. 

Ige Verslype is likely one of the researchers utilizing new applied sciences to investigate Vermeer’s work. She instructed Doane, “Vermeer’s performing some issues that we do not see with different 17th century painters – the very uncommon buildup of paint layers, uncommon use of sure pigments. So, he is actually experimenting in his work, and that is what actually amazes me.”

Artwork specialists use trendy expertise to investigate the work of the 17th century artist – right here, his “Girl in Blue Studying a Letter” (1662-64).

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With such treasured few works, and by no means so many in a single place, this present offered out in two days. The exhibit solely runs till June. No shock, the opposite museums need their Vermeers again.

Doane requested, “The place does Vermeer sit within the pantheon of nice painters?”

Weber replied, “This is determined by your inventive feeling. For me? On the prime.”

For more information:

Story produce by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Joseph Frandino. 

See additionally: 

From 1996: A landmark Vermeer exhibition


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