The National Gallery in Washington removes Vermeer’s authorship from a work in its collection

The National Gallery in Washington removes Vermeer’s authorship from a work in its collection

Until now it was believed that only about 35 paintings by Johannes Vermeer are preserved, but one of them has just been lost. A work of the National Gallery de Washington, attributed to Vermeer and donated in 1942, loses its authorship. New research shows that ‘Girl with flute’ it is not by the hand of the Dutch master, although it was probably made in his studio. The new findings open the possibility that the artist had An apprentice. As to who that figure might be, art gallery officials can only speculate. There are no students registered with the local painters’ guild, and no notes about friends or family taking lessons. However, the museum claims, with a 99 percent probability, that this painting was produced by the “Vermeer school”, reports ‘ArtNet’. “The idea that Vermeer had a studio is not something that many people have talked about. Because he has always been considered a lonely genius» says Marjorie E. Wieseman, curator and head of the Northern European Paintings department at the museum. “We only know about three dozen paintings of him. So why would he have needed a studio?

This thesis results from a detailed study of the six paintings that the museum treasures in its collections, which have sometimes been considered as authentic Vermeer. This study was possible due to the pandemic and that forced the museum to close its doors from March 2020 to May 2021. It is now confirmed that only three are authentic: ‘Woman Holding a Balance’ (about 1664), ‘Lady Writing’ (about 1665), and ‘Young Man with a Red Hat’ (about 1669). Two others have long been considered fakes and now ‘Muchacha con flauta’ is considered a studio work. All of them, accompanied by the results of the latest scientific examinations, are part of the exhibition ‘The secrets of Vermeer’, which can be seen at the National Gallery until January 8, 2023.

‘Girl with a Flute’ was discovered in 1906 and donated to the National Gallery by Joseph Widener in 1942. The authenticity of the work was questioned by the influential Vermeer scholar Pieter Swillens in 1950, and successive scholars accepted his position. In the 1990s, museum curator and Vermeer specialist Arthur Wheelock even questioned the painting, leading to its designation as “attributed to Vermeer». After his retirement in 2018, Wheelock changed his stance: “I have come to the conclusion that removing ‘Girl with a Flute’ from Vermeer’s work was too extreme, given the complex conservation issues surrounding this image,” he wrote. in the museum’s online catalog.

Vermeer used a green earth to shade the faces of their models. This was a unique practice among Dutch painters of his day, according to Wieseman, so a green shade in ‘Girl with a Flute’ would be evidence to attribute the painting to Vermeer. However, he would normally work with larger, faster strokes for the bottom layer and then smooth the surface. Analysis shows that the painter of this painting took the opposite approach.

Vermeer also liked to splash the lips of his characters with reflexes: Small dots that reflected a color that was nearby. The author of the painting had to be close to Vermeer to witness these techniques, but not to master them. “Instead of having a pink highlight on his lip, he has a piece of spinach in his teeth.”

Historical appointment in Amsterdam in 2023

this work alone was attributed “cautionarily” to Vermeer, according to the museum, so this decision may not surprise researchers. But the fact that this mysterious artist worked alongside Vermeer raises many new questions. Although the museum considers this case closed, the investigation points to a deeper mystery about how the artist’s studio actually worked.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last Vermeer’s greatest retrospective in history, which will open from February 10 to June 4, 2023. It will be quite an event. The exhibition, a collaboration between the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis in The Hague, will include such masterpieces as ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ (Mauritshuis, The Hague), ‘The Geographer’ (Städel Museum, Frankfurt), ‘Woman Writing a Letter’ (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and ‘Woman with the Scales’ (National Gallery, Washington). In addition, works that have never before been shown to the public in the Netherlands will be exhibited, including the recently restored ‘Woman Reading a Letter at the Window’ from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. The restoration revealed the presence of a Cupid on the wall that was hidden.


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