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By: Jonathan Janson,
“Silence in the Studio: Vermeer and Terborch”
by Mariët Westermann
Washington College, Chestertown MA
Hotchkiss Recital Hall, Gibson Center for the Arts – Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 5 p.m.
from the Washington College website:
Celebrated art historian Mariët Westermann, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will explore the technical innovations by Dutch painters of the Golden Age such as Vermeer and Gerard Terborch in a lecture entitled “Silence in the Studio: Vermeer and Terborch.”. The lecture will be given on the occasion of the 11th annual Janson-La Palme Distinguished Lecture in European Art History at Washington College on Wednesday, April 9. The talk will begin at 5 p.m. in Hotchkiss Recital Hall, Gibson Center for the Arts, on the college campus.
A native of Holland, Westermann graduated magna cum laude from Williams College with a degree in history. She later completed her master’s degree and Ph.D. in art history at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts and has written extensively on Dutch painting and Vermeer. Westermann is the author of several acclaimed books, including A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic 1585-1718 (ranked a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times); The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the 17th Century; Rembrandt: Art and Ideas; and Anthropologies of Art. She also authored Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675 for the Rijksmuseum Dossiers series and served as guest curator of “Art and Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt” at the Newark Museum and Denver Art Museum
The lecture is free and open to the public.
Click here for Washington College event page.
By: Jonathan Janson,
The arrival of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in Bologna lends a hand to divide the already historically divided Italians. Alberto Mattioli, who writes for one of Italy’s chief daily papers, La Stampa, puts down in black and white what few Anglo-Saxon journalists would dare in an article about the first day of the exhibit, “‘The Girl’ in Bologna: Here is what the celebrated portrait saw on the debut of the Italian exhibition.”
First, Mattioli paints a bleak portrait of the those “famous 5 million Italians” who attend art exhibitions and theaters, and read books and newspapers. The journalist dismisses out of hand the remaining 55 million Italians who instead “ugly themselves watching the most horrible television in the world.” According to Mattioli, one of the main attendants of the crowd that swamps Vermeer’s tiny head is what he calls the “family from Crema” ( i.e. a typical dumb-money family from a rich provincial town), “super-booked” and overjoyed. Between the trip, tickets, tortellini (Bologna’s gastronomic specialty) and catalogue, the “paterfamilias” from Crema will wind up forking up about a thousand euro ($1,400) for the day in Bologna.
Mattioli’s other targets are the “democratic female school teacher” and the “acculturated retiree” who “just can’t” miss the “latest” exhibition.
Obviously, the people who dared put up such an event receive their share.
Marco Goldin, the organizer the spectacle, is guilty of publically claiming “we could actually sell 300,000 tickets!” Even the guards, who are charged with controlling crowd rage (a malady nowhere more acute than in Italy), are dubbed “buttadentro” (literally “throwins,” a play on the word “buttafuori, ” or guards who mercilessly throw “out” the misbehavers from Italy’s justly maligned discotheques).
Mattioli doesn’t have a hard time rounding up consensus in Italy, where blockbuster art exhibitions have long been the object of disdain Philippe Daverio, a prominent art critic, compares the show to Barbie. Alberto Ronchi, commissioner of cultural affairs of Bologna, is quoted as saying “paintings for an art exhibitions are lent, not rented. We are financing the restoration of a Dutch museum; that’s crazy.” The art critic Vittorio Sgarbi calls the exhibition “useless.”
To round things off neatly, an impromptu poll by Mattioli reveals that seven out of eight Italians in the line for the show had no idea that Raphael’s “iconic” Santa Cecilia is only a few minutes away.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Gerrit Dou: The Leiden Collection from New York
March 9 – August 31, 2014
Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, Netherlands
Whether history has been just or unjust with Gerrit Dou, his incredibly meticulous works were sought after far more than Vermeer’s. With the possible exception of Rembrandt, the Lieden-based painter was the most revered and highly paid seventeenth-century Dutch artist. His fame spread throughout Europe, where his paintings were collected by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, Cosimo III de Medici and other elite patrons. The States General of The Netherlands included some of Dou’s paintings in its gift to Charles II of England at his restoration to the British throne in 1660. His works elicited such admiration that Johan de Bye, one of Dou’s patrons, rented a room near the Leiden town hall where paying viewers could admire 27 of the artist’s works. Since then only one major exhibition has been mounted of artists’ works at the National Gallery (2000), however, whose impact hardly measured against the blockbuster Vermeer exhibition (1995-1996) which some critics consider the greatest art exhibition of all time.
Will Dou ever rival Vermeer again? Whatever your opinion, some of his finest works are on display at the Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden. This exhibition features both a unique view of the stunning oeuvre of this painter (genre scenes and portraits) and recent material-technical research from the Lieden Gallery in New York, which vaunts the largest collection of works by Dou in the world.
Enjoy two high resolutions of Dou’s works:
The Herring Seller with a Boy
Cat on A Balustrade, perhaps more in tune with modern tastes.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Curiously, the two most prominent studies of Vermeer in the second half of the 20th century were not authored by art historians. The American economist John Michael Montias pieced together a coherent biography of Vermeer after having translated and transcribed over 400 legal depositions, wills, deeds, warrants, inventories, promissory notes and other official documents related to Vermeer and his extended family. The British architect Philip Steadman meticulously reviewed the long-debated hypothesis that Vermeer had employed the camera obscura as an aid to his painting. Not only did Steadman confirm the hypothesis, he virtually proved (with numbers in hand) that Vermeer used the device to trace the outlines of his compositions directly to his canvas.
Is the Texan tech pioneer Tim Jenison a serious candidate to make the Montias/Steadman duo a trio? The verdict is still out, or to be more precise, it probably hasn’t been pronounced. Yes, it is true that Tim’s Vermeer has slain dead the general public and mesmerized lay press with a revolutionary take on how Vermeer painted with a simple lens device. But to date, art specialists have remained impressively silent (to those who are familiar with the art history mindset that may already be a pretty clear verdict).
Recently, however, the art critic Jonathan Jones of the Guardian broke file to become the first naysayer to step on the stage. Jones takes big swings and holds no punches. He relegates the Texan and his illusionist partners Penn & Teller to the ranks of dilettante outsiders who accomplish little more than producing a passionless, paint-by-numbers copy of a real masterpiece and creating one big illusion of their own: that virtually anyone can replicate a Vermeer painting by a lens and mirror device discovered by Tim.
Read here: DIY Vermeer documentary utterly misses the point about old masters: Tim Jenison tried for a whole year to recreate a Vermeer painting – and all he got was a pedantic imitation
By: Jonathan Janson,
Vermeer fever is getting high even in Italy, where the Dutch Master has never been particularly at home (see my post on why Italians don’t really love Vermeer).
In twenty days, 55,000 advanced tickets have already been sold to see Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Renaissance style Palazzo Fava in Bologna, early 2014. However, not everyone is smiling as much as the 55,000 ticket holders and the exhibition organizer Marco Goldin, who claims that advanced sales like these “have no comparison on a global level.” Alberto Ronchi, the commissioner of cultural affairs of Bologna, is one of the few who’s wearing a frown.
Ronchi, who battles with the economics of his city’s cultural problems on a daily basis, says “there is no cultural project behind these kinds of initiatives.” “It’s just businessmen who rent pictures and shows them around. They tell me many people are coming, but how are they coming? When the long lines in front of Palazzo Fava are gone, what remains for the city of Bologna? Nothing.”
Ronchi estimates the event will cost between whopping 1 to 2 million Euro even though it does demonstrate that “at least some money is circulating, only, it’s being invested this way instead of trying to save Bologna’s existing cultural structure.”
Suspicion about high-flying art exhibitions is not new in Italy. While by now it’s hard to read a negative comment on global crowd pleasers elsewhere, Italian intellectual-journalists routinely deride them for what they see as kowtowing the crowd and wasted resources. Curator-managers are under pressure to turn a new trick to keep museum turnstiles whirling. Too many dubious pictures from private collections bloat the exhibitions, in the search of a pedigree. Mindless crowds get off buses, in line, and back on board scarcely remembering what they came to see to say. This is not to mention the head-spinning insurance costs and the ever-present dangers of shipping irreplaceable works of art over the globe.
I can’t say beforehand if Ronchi will be right or not. But from what I have been able to a gather, the seven Vermeer’s that came to Rome in 2012 have left little more than a few unsold exhibition catalogues on the shelves of the capitol’s book stores which, for some reason unknown to me, still stock art books.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Joy Lee of The China Post reports that advance ticket sales are on sale for an upcoming exhibition that will introduce Taiwanese audiences to the art of Vermeer. The 37 “works,” reproductions, created with latest digital printing technology, will be on display at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall from Jan. 18 to May 4. The exhibition was authorized by the Vermeer Centrum in Delft.
The exhibition hall will be divided into six sections allowing audiences to understand the processes Vermeer used to create his paintings.
The Chief Operations Officer of Gold Media Group’s Event Department Charles Lee said will allow audiences to view Vermeer’s paintings from a new angle and also in a more scientific manner.Lee also announced that Gold Media and the exhibition sponsor Taiwan Cooperative Bank will work together to establish a Vermeer Center in Taiwan.
If aren’t in the New York area, where the original Girl with a Pearl Earring is currently on exhibition at the Frick, but want to see something better that the oversized copy to the left, click here to download a 1835 x 2151 pixel image.
for the full story, see:
“Ticket presale starts for Johannes Vermeer exhibition”
Joy Lee, The China Post, December 17, 2013, 12:08 a.m. TWN
By: Jonathan Janson,
What do the five people on the left have in common? They are theives. To be precise…Vermeer theives.
The more of I have learned about art theft, the less it interests me. Just the same, I thought it was time to cover the five twentieth-century thefts of Vermeer paintings for the Essential Vermeer. One page for every Vermeer theft and one page for art theft in general.
There is little glamour involved. Forget gentlemen aesthetes who steal art as a sophisticated diversion—art is stolen principally by criminals who use stolen works of art for collateral in drug deals.
Of the five stolen Vermeers, only one has not been recovered. It could easily have rotted by now, although art thieves generally take care to hide and conserve their booty: it may eventually may allow them to strike a deal with police if they are caught.
The first three Vermeer paintings were stolen by individuals who thought of themselves as idealists. Depending on where one’s heart is, one thief could be called a loner. Depending on one’s political orientation, the other thief, who most likely headed two separate Vermeer thefts, could be called a terrorist. The most recent two thefts were the “work” of thugs, one, a brutal underworld Irish gangster, the other someone who has not been captured but whose name is known (only) to the FBI.
So if you like to get into the criminal mind, there plenty to chew on. If not, hold off. I am working on a study of how Vermeer influenced his contemporaries (no great surprises, he really didn’t).
Naturally, let me know how I can make it better.
By: Jonathan Janson,
After about 207 or so Vermeer exhibitions and innumerable articles about them, the unsung get their due. As far as I am aware, Randy Kennedy (New York Times) may just be the first journalist to have ever written about that discreet platoon of Vermeer devotees who travel under cover to be with the Master for a few hours. See, “For Fervent Fans of the Dutch Masters, ‘It’s a Dream Come True’”.
Even thought they don’t know me, members of the platoon know my website and they write to me. They are happily married couples, college students, librarians, housewives and lawyers. Most have enough money to travel but some must make real sacrifices. The emails they send are sometimes longish and passionate, often just a note about the most recent Vermeer encounter. A few are hurt because they will never see Vermeer’s Concert stolen by underworld thugs in 1990 and never recovered. A few send me photographs of themselves standing in front of the latest painting with wide grins. What links this heterogamous group is an urgent need to see, one or more Vermeers, but every Vermeer painting on the globe. One thing they never, EVER, omit in their communication is the number of Vermeer paintings they’ve seen so far.
Mind you, this is not trophy hunting. This is not a fad. Tear-jerking novels or an block-buster exhibitions aren’t what it’s about. It’s deeply personal and it goes on for years, in silence.
I have met a few of the platoon when I travel to see Vermeer (standing in front of a Vermeer is wonderful, standing in front of a Vermeer with someone who likes Vermeer as much as you is more so). Some hold that I am an expert and want to know if Vermeer really used a camera obscura, but also which are my favorite Vermeer paintings. Then they tell me theirs. Some are as articulate as any seasoned art historian. Some don’t seem to comprehend at all why they love Vermeer but nonetheless wind up revealing to me something about his painting I had never thought of.
I am glad to be one of the Vermeer platoon and glad my website occasionally connects me with my companions and, hopefuly, offers them useful information, food for thought and a way to express some of their emotions.
Oh yes! I have seen all but two Vermeers: The Procuress and the Berlin Glass of Wine.
By: Jonathan Janson,
More on the documentary film, TIM’S VERMEER.
Can anyone do this?
The press has really sunken their teeth in it. Three new articles look at how Tim Jenison, an American tech wizard and compulsive inventor, believes he has discovered how Vermeer painted and then painted one to prove it. (see a quick summary of Tim’s story below).
Kurt Andersen of Vanity Fair looks at some of the technical aspects of the undertaking. Tim shows his cards and throws in a high-resolution image of his finished Vermeer to prove his point. To get yourself convinced or unconvinced, read the article, see Tim’s painting and then click here to see the original on which Tim’s reconstruction is based.
Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times registers the art history community’s first reactions. As you would expect, they are doubtful without being explicitly dismissive. I would suspect this not so much to avoid the unsavory prospect of being caught on the wrong side of history (remember how dreadfully wrong some got the Impressionists and Van Meegeren and how much they paid for it?) but for institutional good manners and an understandable apprehension about alienating the broad public which the movie targets and will likely win over. Could any one calculate how many more visitors will be pushing though the turnsyles of Vermeer museums if Tim’s Vermeer clinches an Oscar for best documentary feature?
Stefanie Cohen of the Wall Street Journal furnishes background information about the “optical question” posed by Steadman and then describes Tim’s venture reserving Philip Steadman’s iffy comment for last. Steadman’s meticulous investigation and lucid argumentation regarding Vermeer’s use the camera obscura eventually brought almost all art historians onboard his not-easy to-digest hypothesis (i.e. Vermeer used the camera and traced with it too), no easy trick for an art history outsider.
Will layman Tim do as well? Tim’s story has just begun to be told.
Tim’s Vermeer opens Dec. 6 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway, Manhattan. Opens Dec. 13 in Los Angeles, nationwide on Jan. 31.
By: Jonathan Janson,
The Kenwood House, one of Britain’s most historic stately homes, has finally been restored to its former beauty. With the aid of conservation charity, eight rooms have been re-presented and reinterpreted to reference different periods in the building’s history. The newly refurbished rooms now feature family trails, an interactive dolls house, original letters and architectural designs. Naturally, in situ is a priceless collection of artworks by Vermeer, .Rembrandt, Van Dyke and Gainsborough which had been collected by Edward Cecil Guinness, First Earl of Iveagh. The work, which took 18 months and cost £6 million, is now drawing to a close with a reopening date set for Thursday, November 28. Vermeer’s late Guitar Player will be in the original location after its was shown for the period of the Kenwood’s restoration and the London National Gallery.
Click here for a BBC video about the restoration.
Click here more about for painting.
Click here for information about the restoration from the Kenwood House website.
Aaron Sharp, “Restored to its former glories: Stately home which houses masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer set to reopen to public”, Mail Online.com. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2513611/Kenwood-House-houses-masterpieces-Rembrandt-Vermeer-set-reopen.html>
By: Jonathan Janson,
In Tim’s Vermeer, Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor and giant of video and post-production software for home computers, (Video Toaster, LightWave, TriCaster) attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in European art: How did the seventeenth- century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so realistically – 150 years before the invention of photography?
In the search of an answer, Jenison began by working off of the theories set forth in David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters and Philip Steadman’s Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces, both of which allege that Vermeer employed an optical device, the camera obscura, as an aid to his painting. Fascinated by the theories of Hockney and Steadman (both outsiders to the art history enclave), Jenison built his own camera obscura but found something was amiss. He immediately came to suspect that not only had Vermeer used some sort of optical device to trace the drawing of his motif onto his canvas (as Steadman had for all practical purposes proved) but must have used it to register the colors and tonal values of his paintings which have been long admired for their uncanny precision, apparently out of reach of his contemporaries.
While viewing in person Vermeer’s Music Lesson, perhaps the artist’s most “optically based” work, Jenison, a video engineer well versed in analyzing images scientifically, became firmly convinced that the work presents optical information that cannot be gathered by retinal observation. Pondering how Vermeer could have achieved such results, he invented—the idea came to him as he was relaxing in a bath tub—a simple, easy-to-use optical device, whose technology was easily within the reach of the seventeenth-century artist, and painstakingly taught himself to paint with it. The mirror of Jenison’s device reflects an object in such a way that a painter can duplicate on his canvas not only an object’s contours on canvas but its colors and tones as well. Putting his theory to the ultimate test, Jenison built a perfectly scaled “set” of the Music Lesson in a San Antonio studio and “repainted” Vermeer’s Music Lesson from it using the device. After various false starts, Jenison learned how to handle the device with greater efficacy, how to hand grind paint and how to domesticate paint and brush, an entierly new experience for the digital engeneer. He employed seven months to complete the work, which he claims is easily accurate enough to uphold his hypothesis.
Although Jenison admits that there is no historical evidence that proves his hypothesis, he believes that if his method for transferring form, color and tone form with a mechanical device to a canvas were used by Vermeer, a chapter of art history would have to be rewritten.
Jenison’s friends, the illusionists and professional debunkers Penn & Teller, united with him to fully document his years- long investigation into the mysterious methods of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer. The movie includes commentary from Jillett, Hockney and Steadman. Speaking of the film, Hockney said, “It might disturb quite a lot of people,” since it forces you to question everything that you thought you knew about great art and the people responsible for it. But, as Jillette points out, it doesn’t argue that they weren’t geniuses; it just shows that they were fathomable geniuses, rather than unfathomable ones.
Click here to view a YouTube interview with Jenison and hear his his ideas on Vermeer at 34:35 minutes into the video.
Another interveiw with Jenison, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfsbSK0WPqU
Variety, “Penn and Teller’s uncanny crowdpleaser begs the question, is it still a masterpiece if an amateur could do it?”, Peter Debruge
director: Penn Jillette
producers: Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler
principal cast: Penn Jillette, Tim Jenison, Martin Mull, Philip Steadman, David Hockney, Colin Blakemore
cinematographer: Shane F. Kelly
editor: Patrick Sheffield
music: Conrad Pope
u.s. distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
canadian dist.: Mongrel Media
release date; 2013
duration: 80 minutes
production website: http://sonyclassics.com/timsvermeer/
By: Jonathan Janson,
Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Philadelphia Museum of Art
October 26, 2013 – March 2014
Christopher Atkins, Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture
Gallery 264, second floor
The Philadelphia Museum of Art will exhibit the Young Woman Seated at a Virginal until March on loan from the private Leiden Collection. Since the work, the only private collector other than the Queen to possess a painting by Vermeer, was acquired by it present owner, it has become a veritable globe trotter being shown. The list below traces the painting’s traverses from its discover to today. Only during the last decade, since the picture was brought back into contact with the scholarly community, has it been examined seriously. Now, after more than 10 years of extensive research by a team of leading scholars, the painting has now been proposed as a secure addition to Vermeer’s limited oeuvre.
- The Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is presumable painted by Vermeer, c. 1670.
- The picture is documented for the first time in 1904, when it was published in the preliminary catalogue by Wilhelm von Bode of the collection of Alfred Beit, a South African-born diamond magnate who rivaled the great early 20th-century art acquisitions of Americans such as Frick and Mellon.
- Before and during the World War II, it is unanimously recognized by scholars, including Hofstede de Groot, Ary de Vries, Eduard Plietzsch and Ludwig Goldscheider.
- Following the dramatic Van Meegeren affair of Vermeer forgeries, De Vries, the Director of the Rijksmuseum and leading Vermeer scholar, expresses doubts about the authenticity of the picture published in 1948. De Vries changes his mind, in favor of the painting, and writes several letters saying that if his book were to go into a third edition he would rehabilitate the picture.
- When Beit dies, the picture passes to his brother, Otto Beit, and then to the latter’s son, Sir Alfred Beit, who eventually, in 1960, places the picture on consignment with a London dealer.
- Baron Frédéric Rolin of Brussels, an occasional collector of Old Masters and dealer in tribal art, sees it and falls immediately in love with. Aware of the doubtful attribution to Vermeer, he acquires it in exchange four works from his collection, paintings by Klee, Signac, Bonnard and Riopelle.
- Lawrence Gowing (1970) and Christopher Wright (1976) continue to accept it, but others remain skeptical.
- In 1993, the auction house Sotheby’s is approached by Baron Rolin, with a request to undertake new research on the painting.
- A complete scientific study is begun in 1995 by Libby Sheldon of University College London, in collaboration with her colleague Catherine Hassall, and in 1997 Nicola Costaras of the Victoria and Albert Museum joins this team. The investigation demonstrates that the picture os unquestionably 17th-century in origin and also that its technical composition is consistent with Vermeer’s known working methods. In particular, the composition of the ground layers is found to be entirely comparable with other works by the artist, and the pigments used were also appropriate.
- Rolin dies in 2002, and the painting is offered for sale by his heirs.
- On July 7, 2004, Sotheby’s auctions the painting to an unknown bidder for $30 million, many times more than the London auction house’s estimate of $5.4 million.
- Two days later, the British art critic Brian Sewell rejected the painting peremptorily in a scathing article describing it as “so damaged and abraded that only modern restoration makes it fit to see” and that the picture will join the many twentieth-century “false attributions and downright forgeries enthusiastically attested by the experts of the day as an object of derision—£16.2 million is monumental proof of folly, not authenticity.”
- The painting is shown briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (11 August 2004 – 1 March 2005).
- The buyer finally turns out to be the number-one suspect, Steve Wynn, the immensely rich (as of March 2012, Wynn is the 491st richest man in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion) Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector.
- The painting disappears in Wynn’s main office.
- In 2008, the maverick art historian Benjamin Binstock declared that the Rolin work, along with other five Vermeers, had been painted by Maria Vermeer, the artist’s daughter and “secret apprentice.” Binstock bases his maverick hypothesis on perceived inconsistencies in technique, materials, artistic level of the Rolin and other six works, and on a systematic account of Vermeer’s family members as models.
- In the same year, 2008, Walter Liedtke formally enlisted the Rolin picture as Vermeer’s 36th work in a complete catalogue of the artist’s paintings. The savvy Vermeer expert begins the catalogue essay stating that there exist “compelling reasons to accept this small picture as a late work by Vermeer.”
- It is exhibited in Tokyo along with other 6 other Vermeer’s from August 2 – December 14, 2008 (190-192, no. 31 and ill).
- On October 26, 2008, Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the painting is sold by Wynn to an unknown buyer for $30 million.
- The buyer is identified as a New York art collector and dealer in Dutch art.
- The painting raises its head on Dec. 29, 2009, in Gallery 14A in the European paintings galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, It is labeled as from a “Private Collection” and is on view until June.
- It is shown a in Norfolk, Virginia 1 June 2010 – 1 January, 2011 at the Chrysler Museum of Art.
- It is shown in Cambridge, England, 5 October, 2011 – 15 January, 2012, at the Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum (no. 28 and ill.).
- It is shown in Rome, 27 September, 2012 – 20 January, 2013at the Vermeer. Il secolo d’oro dell’arte olandese at the Scuderie del Quirinale. (220, no. 51 and ill.).
- It is shown in London, 26 June “8 September, 2013, at theVermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age exhibition.
By: Jonathan Janson,
For film people, Master of Light (narrator: Meryl Streep : director Joseph Krakora) is now available on Youtube (57:37). Some fairly interesting commentary if you can wade through the music and atmosphere. But I am no fan of cinema so see please for yourself.
I am getting close to publishing two new studies on Vermeer a Essential Vermeer. Vermeer Thefts and Vermeer: Erroneously Attributions and Forgeries. By and my count there are almost countless false attributions (I have singled out more than 20) and 5 thefts. As soon as the text is edited and all the dates, footnotes names double checked, I’ll give notice.
By: Jonathan Janson,
For some reason unknown to me, the love for Vermeer’s art can sometimes express itself in unusual forms.
Oskar Maria Baksalary (Institute of Physics, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan) and George P.H. Styan (Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGil University, Montreal), the authors of “Some Comments on the Diversity of Vermeer Paintings Depicted on Postage Stamps,” have determined that, as of 2007, 20 Vermeer paintings have been represented on postage stamps issued by 29 countries. The team applied Fisher’s index of bio diversity to compare the diversity of Vermeer paintings depicted on postage stamps with diversity of two other data sets.
The conclusion, which I trust is accurate, is the following:
And so we see that Vermeer stamps from the South Pacific are the least diverse ( = 1 : 59), while the Vermeer stamps from Europe are the most diverse ( = 19 : 95). Williams’s Nigerian hawk-moths are about in the middle of the bio diversity index range ( = 9 : 03 ), just below Vermeer stamps from the Middle East ( = 9 : 86).
The study affords a touching glimpse into what drew the first author to Vermeer. Click here to access the PDF document.
By: Jonathan Janson,
One of the pleasures of being a painter is being able (more or less) to copy paintings you love or are interested in. Since last year I had seven Vermeers (by my count five and a half) at a 35-minute walk from my home here in Rome (and free entrance), I took some time off and made three copies: the NG Lady Standing Lady at the Virginals, the NGA The Girl with a Red Hat and the newly attributed Young Woman at the Virginal (New York private collection).
The London experience was dreadful. Although I cheated and projected the drawing onto my canvas, had a state-of-the-art digital image of the painting on my studio monitor and could check my progress by viewing at the original any time I wished, everything went wrong, especially the make-or-break tonal values. The contours look weary, the modeling completely exhausted and even the local colors, which at least in theory should be approachable, were off key to put it nicely. The grand compensation for my labor is that my wooden lady will look out at me every day and tell me that I am not Vermeer, unless of course I turn her to the wall, which I did.
The Girl with a Red Hat went better—in the beginning. I got the hat glazed properly and was foolish enough to take a deep breath and whack in the background all at once, spontaneously, as it should be done. Not bad. Obviously, I postponed doing the face for as long as I could knowing it is one of the most finessed faces in Vermeer’s oeuvre (I prefer her to the Girl with a Pearl Earring). But when I finally threw caution to the wind and made an attempt to capture the play of silvery greens and pinks that make the young lady glow, I got something akin to a face of dark and light mud.
Last try, the New York picture: a work I do not admire. But since I am writing a lengthy analysis on it, I decided it would be a good idea to walk in Vermeer’s shoes (or whoever made it) to see what it might feel like. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any surprises. That is, it wasn’t hard to copy. Nothing went differently than I had expected. Nothing really went really wrong. The background is a bit too light (maybe it’s better), the cheeks are not pink enough and I couldnt bring myself to make the shadows of the face as dark as the original, but from a technical point of view the painting presnt nothing that was substantially not within the reach of my modest talents.
Now that I have three Vermeers for myself, I’ll keep two turned to the wall for the moment and one framed, but hung somewhere in my house where I won’t see it too much.
By: Jonathan Janson,
As is enevitable, image-rights policies of art institutions continue to loosen up.
The Getty President Jim Cuno announced in a post on The Iris that it is lifting restrictions on the use of images to which the Getty holds all the rights or are in the public domain.
“As of today, the Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds all the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose,” wrote Cuno, citing the new program.
Approximately 4,600 images of paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities and sculpture and decorative arts from the J. Paul Getty Museum will available in high resolution on the Getty’s website for use without restriction. Other images will be added until all Getty-owned or public domain images are available, without restrictions, online.
Art buffs should not miss the delightful Dutch paintings in the Getty Collection. Links to a few are posted below. To download the hi-res image, click on the “download” link directly under the thumbnail image of each painting.
The Music Lesson by Gerrit ter Borch
Pictura (An Allegory of Painting) by Frans van Mieris
Head of a Woman by Michael Sweerts
Double Portrait by Michael Sweerts
A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy by Pieter de Hooch
My favorite is, however, Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Bacchante and Ape (6534 x 7548 pixels!)
Beware, Ter Brugghen’s technique is so utterly efficient that ipainting look easy. Even with 40+ years of easel paint under my belt, it is still a discouraging painting to look at it. Sometimes I envy art historians.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Vermeer and Music
In cinemas worldwide on October 10 & varying dates
The National Gallery, London, is offering a fresh look at one of the most startling and fascinating artists of all – Johannes Vermeer, painter of the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. The National Gallery has chosen to focus on Vermeer’s relationship with music. It is one of the most popular themes of Dutch painting and reveals an enormous amount about the sitter and the society they lived in. New research, revealed for the first time at this exhibition, shows how his technique and materials affected his works.
Tim Marlow, a British writer, broadcaster and art historian best known for his regular feature on Channel Five – Marlow On Style, goes beyond the exhibition to tell the entire story of Vermeer’s life – and, in doing so, shows in HD detail many other of the artist’s captivating works.
To book tickets go to the the find-a-venue page.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Click here to discover the techniques and materials behind four of Vermeer’s music-themed paintings on display in the exhibition Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure.
Illuminating and richly illustrated. All articles are authored by the National Gallery’s Helen Howard, Scientific Officer – Microscopist; David Peggie, Scientific Officer – Organic Analyst; and Rachel Billinge, Research Associate in the Conservation department.
Support and ground
Secrets of the studio
Altered appearance of ultramarine
Fading of yellow and red lake pigments
Drying and paint defects
Formation of lead and zinc soaps
from the National Gallery website:
The extended loan of Vermeer’s The Guitar Player from Kenwood House enabled National Gallery researchers to analyse the painting’s materials and closely study the techniques used. The findings were compared with other late paintings by Vermeer in the National Gallery (A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal and A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal), and a slightly earlier work (The Music Lesson) kindly lent by the Royal Collection for the National Gallery’s 2013 summer exhibition Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure.
By: Jonathan Janson,
For hi-res buffs who need a fix and scholars who need more than something than the same old printed images to go on, two new hi-res images of Vermeer paintings are now available on the net. The Guitar Player, which also can be viewed with the IIPMooViewer at the National Gallery website, is now entirely downloadable at Wikipedia. Click here. The images is a whopping 3,691 × 4,226 pixels. Examine the bizarre calligraphic touches of the gilt frame and the sound hole of the guitar: Vermeer at his best, at least for a painter like myself. For the curious, along the upper edge of the painting there are two fingerprints: whose?
The second hi-res image, A Lady Writing a letter with her Maid, is tucked away on the National Gallery of Ireland website and, unfortunately, cannot be downloaded like The Guitar Player. Click here to view it 750 x 350 pixels at a time at with the ubiquitous Zoomify interface.
By: Jonathan Janson,
From Perception to Paint: the practical use of the Camera Obscura in the time of Vermeer
in Art and Perception
There has been much debate as to whether Vermeer himself would have used any kind of optical aid in the execution of his paintings. The paintings themselves appear to show optical effects and distortions, seen only through a lens and not with the naked eye. Was Vermeer just influenced by the view through a camera, or did he transfer the projected images directly to his paintings?
Jane Jelly’s experiment shows a method that would have made transfers from a projection to a canvas a practical possibility, using readily available materials and contemporary technology. This technique not only solves the problems of the reversals of camera obscura images, but significantly, the resultant transfers from the lens show striking resonances with Vermeer’s own underpainting, revealed by scientific analysis. This research also provides some answers about the use of particular materials in the 17th-century studio.
click here to download PDF
By: Jonathan Janson,
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (Rijksmuseum publication)
by Gregor J.M. Weber
64 pages full-colour, paperback, 18×11 cm
Dutch and English
Don’t have any information but the Rijksmuseum has published (in Dutch and English) a 64-page full color booklet by Gregor Weber on Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. Should be very interesting.
click here to order.
By: Jonathan Janson,
After a long vacation from Italy and my computer (I never vacation from Vermeer), there is lots of catching up to do. Here’s a start for digital image fans.
In conjunction with the current Vermeer exhibition Vermeer & Music: The Art of Love & Leisure, the National Gallery has published super hi-res images of the 4 authentic Vermeers which you can access by clicking here. The Lady Standing at the Virginal, the Lady Standing at the Virginal and the Guitar Player are somewhat larger than those already on the gallery’s website but the Music Lesson is by far the best digital image of the picture now publicly available (Google’s scan of the picture is downright horrible). Also included are x-ray images of the NG works. All the images are exceptionally detailed but decidedly low in contrast. If you know the pictures well, I would imagine that a little bit of contrasting in image editor will do the trick.
In any case, the IIPMooViewer is acceptably responsive but I still prefer to have the whole image on my hard disk. This requires scores and scores of screen capturing, pasting to Photoshop and aligning (nerve-racking) and, obviously, an endless reserve of patience. If any kind soul out there knows how to sidestep this gargantuan task and download the whole images, don’t hesitate to let us all know.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Of all the digital image policies of the world’s great art collections, the Rijksmuseum‘s clearly make most sense.
“We’re a public institution, and so the art and objects we have are, in a way, everyone’s property…” “‘With the Internet, it’s so difficult to control your copyright or use of images that we decided we’d rather people use a very good high-resolution image of the Milkmaid from the Rijksmuseum rather than using a very bad reproduction…”
Taco Dibbits (director of collections at the Rijksmuseum)
Read this NYT article for more information.
By: Jonathan Janson,
Detail of the Geographer on
Google’s Art Project at highest resolution.
Google can be amazing…sometimes the wrong way. From what I have gathered, the behemoth’s homegrown Art Project reflects fairly accurately their corporate mindset: despite brave-new-world ambition and claims of pushing technology to its limits, the project is sometimes unbelievably uneven in quality.
Among the latest museum additions to the Google Art Project is the Frankfurt Städelsches Kunstinstitut which houses Vermeer’s Geographer. Let me put it this way, I’d recommend you clicking on this link that takes you to the zoom feature of the picture only in the case you have a grudge with Vermeer. Its gritty, pixelated quality is simply astounding. It seems more likely that it was scanned from a weathered color 1950s transparency than from the picture itself using state-of-the-art digital imaging apparatus. On the positive side, at this point Google probably can’t do anything worse for Vermeer, although they will probably keep on trying.
BTW, can someone explain why Google Art Project lists artists by their first names?
By: Jonathan Janson,
View Next 25 Posts
Vermeer’s Milkmaid alone brought 329,446
to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008.
Part 1 – 2 – 3.
Is Rubens greater than Vermeer? Can we honestly say that the Girl with the Pearl Earring merits the status of “the Mona Lisa of the North”? Impossible questions to answer? Complicated, definitely. After all, today no one even agrees on what art is in the first place. But before attempting the impossible, I would like to address each of the five reasons for which the historian Rabb claims Rubens’ art is superior to Vermeer’s because, unless you are averse art historical fencing, they are interesting.
Claim no. 1. Rubens had a dominant role in the development of the art of his time—Vermeer did not.
It is true; Vermeer had virtually no impact on his contemporaries. Surviving paintings which show signs of his manner are fewer than twenty and most of them were produced by moderately-talented Dutch painters known only to well-informed art historians (e.g. Jacobus Vrel and Cornelis de Man). Michael van Musscher—an enterprising fellow who was able to recycle just about any motif he set his eyes on—did a relaxed remake of Vermeer’s solemn Art of Painting, hardly an event which drives forward the course of art. Gabriel Metsu, equally eclectic and remunerated as Van Musscher but more gifted, paid homage to Vermeer by scattering a few of the latter’s trademark pointillés upon a pair of slippers of an elegant seamstresses’ skirt in his Woman Reading a Letter with her Maid. A few of Metsu’s interiors do indeed betray a compositional rigor unusual for this artist but characteristic of the work of his Delft colleague although problems of dating obfuscate who was really looking at who. Without fear of rebuttal, it is fair to say that Vermeer’s influence did not extend far beyond the picturesque city bastions of his hometown Delft. On the other hand, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Rubens, indisputable “greats” by anyone’s standards, can be credited not only with shaping the course of European art, but to some degree of Western thinking as well.
Whether Vermeer’s ambitions were lowly or lofty, almost everything in his life and art is scaled down in respects to Europe’s giants: the dimensions of his pictures, the hierarchy of his subject matter and the social status of his clientele pale in comparison. Even his personal ambitions were anything but spectacular.
Michelangelo was commissioned to fresco 12,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican by Pope Julius II. He designed and oversaw the construction of the dome of the basilica of St Peters, the spiritual and geographical heart of the Roman Catholicism.
Titian received honors in every city he set foot. In Venice has was adored, and he virtually expunged the city of rivals enjoying the patronage of enlightened Italian courts where he painted the portraits of Doges, princes and cardinals. A biographer told the story that during a studio visit Emperor Charles V picked up a brush for the artist to which Titian responded, “Sire, I am not worthy of such a servant.” The Emperor replied, “Titian is worthy to be served by Caesar.”
Velasquez aspired to become a knight of Santiago, a prestigious Spanish military orders reserved for noblemen. At the age of 24, he became the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of the Spanish empire, which had reached its seventeenth-century territorial zenith which spanned 12.2 million square kilometers. Velázquez was entrusted with painting royal portraits and with decorating of the Escorial. In 1660, he was charged to organize one of Europe’s greatest ceremonies, the wedding of the Infanta Maria Theresa to Louis XIV of France.
Closer to home, the career accomplishments of Van Mieris, Ter Borch and Dou, the Netherlands’s top tier artists, easily outstripped those of Vermeer. Dou once received the astronomical sum of 4,000 guilders (good to buy three or four average Dutch houses) from the States of Holland for a painting entitled The Young Mother while Van Mieris was paid 2,500 by Cosimo III of the Medici family for a Family Concert. Ter Borch was so successful that he could afford the luxury of settling down in Deventer, away from the bustling art market in Amsterdam, and become a gemeensman (city counselor) in 1666. All three received invitations to European courts.
On the other hand, out hero Vermeer seems to have been content to become a schutter in the militia of his tiny Delft (population 20,000) which counted amongst them “the most suitable, most peaceful and best qualified burgers or children of burgers.” He may have been acquainted with Constantijn Huygens, loosely described as Holland’s Renaissance man, but his only proven tie with the upper crust of Dutch society was that with his patron Pieter van Ruijven, a Delft burger who paid a fortune for an aristocratic title but would have been forgotten to history had he not been linked to Vermeer. One painting by Vermeer was estimated by its owner, a prosperous Delft baker, to be worth 600 guilders but it is not know if this sum represented a real commercial value or an attempt to enhance the baker’s social status and the value of the artist’s work in the eyes of the diffident Frenchmen who had visited Delft in order to see the artist’s work. Having escaped from his father’s inn and installed himself in the Papist corner, shielded by his mother-in-law’s patrician standing and money, may have been a significant rise in social status for Vermeer who had been born to a family of a tradesman.
Curiously, although Vermeer’s fame and monetary value soared in the 20th century, his painting, which has been incessantly associated with the values of modernism, continued to inspire very few colleagues (except for forgers). Perhaps, his only legacy in “modern” times (if you can call it a legacy—I wouldn’t) is the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi.
RUBENS – 1 / VERMEER – 0.