The Rijksmuseum attributes to Vermeer a painting from the National Gallery of Washington to which the latter has just withdrawn the authorship

The Rijksmuseum attributes to Vermeer a painting from the National Gallery of Washington to which the latter has just withdrawn the authorship

There are still two and a half months to go before the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam opens its doors to the exhibition of the century: the first monograph dedicated in its history to Vermeer, the Delft painter, and the largest held to date. In 1996 the Mauritshuis in The Hague managed to collect 22 works. Almost three decades later, the Rijksmuseum will exhibit, from February 10 to June 4, 2023, 28 works by Vermeer (and it may finally be 29), of the 37 that are known. Tickets for an exhibition that aims to break all records can now be purchased online.

the art gallery expects to receive about 500,000 visitors. There will be limited capacity (between 2,500 and 3,000 people per day), so the opening hours will be extended. A unique opportunity, as it will not be seen anywhere else and it is unlikely that so many Vermeers will meet again. This painter did not always enjoy the success he has today. After gaining great fame, he fell into oblivion. Until Thoré-Bürger rediscovered it in 1866. he called it ‘the effigy of Delft’because of how mysterious and enigmatic it was.

«Rubens and Titian would be an opera; Vermeer, chamber music. It is magic, absolute poetry»

Friso Lammertse

Curator of 17th-Century Dutch Painting at the Rijksmuseum

Friso LammertseToday at the Casón del Buen Retiro, curator of Dutch Painting from the 17th century at the Rijksmuseum, accompanied by Alejandro Vergara, head of Conservation of Flemish Painting and Schools of the North of the Prado, has advanced some details of the highly anticipated exhibition, as well as juicy details biography and work of the artist. «We know little about his life. -comments Lammertse-. There are no letters, no diaries, no portraits his. We know that he painted a self-portrait, but it is missing. They say that he could be the character dressed in black that appears on the left in ‘The Pimp’, from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. He was born in 1632 at his father’s inn. He was an innkeeper and art dealer. He then bought art in the inns. At the age of 21, he married a rich and Catholic young woman. His mother-in-law was opposed to that marriage. He was a Protestant. He lived in the neighborhood of the Popes, where all the Catholics resided. They had 15 children, although only 11 reached adulthood. He died in 1675 ».

On the right, ‘The Milkmaid’, by Vermeer. On the left, the painter’s regrets: he sketched a jar hanger and a brazier basket, which he later removed from the composition

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

It is believed that he was able to paint between 45 and 50 works over a 20-year career. Rembrandt made more than 300. He had an employer, who was a baker and that he came to treasure 21 of his works, half of his production. In his paintings he used domestic material found in his house. Using a musical simile, Lammertse warns that his painting “would not be an opera, as in the case of Rubens and Titian, but chamber music. Es magic, absolute poetry; It is brilliant. A painting on nothing and everything». He signed his works, but did not date them. ‘The Prince of Pointillism’ began by painting history paintings and continued with genre paintings.

Among the 28 works that will surely be in the exhibition, apart from the four from the Rijksmuseum (‘The alley’, ‘Woman reading a letter’, ‘The milkmaid’ and ‘The love letter’), the following stand out. The Frick Collection will donate its three Vermeers, something historic: ‘Lady and Maid’, ‘The Interrupted Music Lesson’ and ‘Soldier and Laughing Girl’. Such generosity is possible because the New York museum is closed for renovation. The Mauritshuis in The Hague will do the same and donate his three works by the artist: ‘View of Delft’, ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘Diana and her nymphs.’

The Metropolitan Museum of New YorkFor its part, it will donate two of its five Vermeer works (it is the museum that has the most): ‘Allegory of the Catholic faith’ and ‘Woman with a lute’. However, ‘Sleeping Girl’, ‘Study of a Young Woman’ and ‘Woman with a Water Jug’ will not be there. Lammertse explains that in some cases this is prevented by the clauses of the legacies’ contracts, which specify that they can never leave the museum. In other cases it is due to its fragile state of preservation. This is the case of ‘Music lesson’, from the british royal collection.

La National Gallery de Washington will lend four works: ‘Woman writing’, ‘Girl with a red hat’, ‘The pearl appraiser’ and ‘Girl with a flute’. All four will appear in the exhibition as works by Vermeer. It is striking, since the North American museum has made an in-depth study of the four paintings and ‘Girl with a flute’ recently lost its authorship. It is paradoxical that the museum that owns the painting says that it is not a Vermeer and the museum in another country says that it is. Asked by ABC about this matter, Friso Lammertse says that “there is a very refined debate between the two museums. The National Gallery in Washington believes it could be the work of his studio, but the curators of the Rijksmuseum believe that it is indeed the work of Vermeer. There are works by this artist that are more detailed than others, but there are pigments in this painting that are related to other Vermeer paintings.”

‘Girl Reading a Letter’, by Vermeer. On the right, with the figure of Cupid that appeared after the restoration of the painting

Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden

In addition, he warns that it was a lonely painter and that did not have a workshop. There is no evidence about it. Nor does the fact of its low production support this theory. The Dutch museum will also confirm the attribution to Vermeer of two works about which there were doubts in his day, but that today, says Lammertse, there is a general consensus: ‘Santa Práxedes’, from the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, and ‘Young woman seated before the virginal’, from the Leiden Collection in New York.

The exhibition will also include loans from the National Gallery in London, the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin or the Louvre. The latter will yield ‘The lacemaker’, although not ‘The astronomer’. Other notable absences are ‘The art of painting’, a masterpiece of Art History Museum of Viennawho rarely travels, although a few years ago he came to the Prado, or ‘The concert’, which was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston and remains unaccounted for.

The Rijksmuseum, in collaboration with other museums and the University of Antwerp, has carried out an exhaustive research and technical study of some works by Vermeer. Thanks to the latest technology, it has been possible to observe repentance in works such as ‘the milkmaid’: the artist sketched in the bottom of the canvas with black paint a jar hanger, like the one in his house, and in the lower right part a brazier basket to dry the babies’ clothes. Finally, he did not like it and decided to remove them from the composition. «Vermeer seeks sobriety. He paints freely, he makes quick and free brushstrokes, although it then takes him half a year to finish his paintings. He made a ‘sfumato’, but less smoky than the Leonardo. It’s like he hates edges », says Friso Lammertse. He also made changes to other celebrated compositions such as ‘the lane’, where he put and removed characters, opened and closed doors and shutters… Trial and error. A great painter, but not as methodical as he was painted.


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