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1. New Vermeer-Related Publication

Holland’s Golden Age in America: Collecting the Art of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals
by Esmée Quodbach
ed. New York (The Frick Collection) and University Park (The Pennsylvania State University Press) 2014

from the Pennsylvania State University Press website:
Americans have long had a taste for the art and culture of Holland’s Golden Age. As a result, the United States can boast extraordinary holdings of Dutch paintings. Celebrated masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals are exceptionally well represented, but many fine paintings by their contemporaries can be found as well. In this groundbreaking volume, fourteen noted American and Dutch scholars examine the allure of seventeenth-century Dutch painting to Americans over the past centuries. The authors of Holland’s Golden Age in America explain in lively detail why and how American collectors as well as museums turned to the Dutch masters to enrich their collections. They examine the role played by Dutch settlers in colonial America and their descendants, the evolution of American appreciation of the Dutch school, the circumstances that led to the Dutch school swiftly becoming one of the most coveted national schools of painting, and, finally, the market for Dutch pictures today. Richly illustrated, this volume is an invaluable contribution to the scholarship on the collecting history of Dutch art in America, and it is certain to inspire further research.

In addition to the editor, the contributors are Ronni Baer, Quentin Buvelot, Lloyd DeWitt, Peter Hecht, Lance Humphries, Walter Liedtke, Louisa Wood Ruby, Catherine B. Scallen, Annette Stott, Peter C. Sutton, Dennis P. Weller, Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., and Anne T. Woollett.

This book provides answers for anyone who has ever wondered why there are so many great Dutch paintings in U.S. collections. Essays by leading curators and scholars draw on the history of art, as well as an understanding of cultural, economic, and political conditions, to illuminate the American taste for seventeenth-century Dutch painting.
Emilie Gordenker, Director, Mauritshuis, The Hague

Drawing on the experience and insights of many of her colleagues in museums and the academy, Esmée Quodbach brings us an impressively broad overview of the early collectors of Dutch art in America. This essential volume provides illuminating context for major figures such as J. P. Morgan and welcomes unsung heroes such as Robert Gilmor, Jr., onto this stage, but also lifts the curtain on early colonial as well as contemporary collections. These varied accounts are spiked with color, drama, and highlights, including the story of the wealthy collector who has to ask, “Who is Vermeer?”
David de Witt, Bader Curator of European Art, Queen’s University

Esmée Quodbach is Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Collecting at The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library in New York.

http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-06201-3.html

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2. Saint Praxedis sold for $10,687,160

praxedis-03

The London-based auction house Christie’s reported via a Twitter feed that the Saint Praxedis (101.6 x 82.6 cm.) was sold on Tuesday, July 8 for $10,687,160 (£6,242,500). The going price was barely higher that than the auction house’s lowest estimate of $10,284,000 but considerably lower than the upper estimate of $13,712,000. The name of the purchaser is not known.

In 2004, Sotheby’s sold the miniscule Woman Seated at the Virginals for $42 million (£16.2 million) a price five times greater than the auction house’s initial estimate. Previous to the two sales, the authorship of both works had been for debated for decades. On occasion of the sales the picture were proposed as authentic Vermeer’s largely the basis of scientific analysis spearheaded, in both cases, by the respective auction houses.

At the moment, the relatively low price paid for the Saint Praxedis may suggest that the results of the scientific analysis were not less than convincing and that it was bought in hopes that future critical or scientific examinations will strengthened its attribution.

Before the painting was sold, Christie’s reported that after having examined the picture the conservator Libby Sheldon said that although no firm conclusion about the exact date of the picture’s Vermeer signature could be reached, she believed that it is nonethless “old.” In 1998 , Jørgen Wadum, then the chief curator of the Mauritshuis, stated that the signature had been added after the painting had been completed. Tests carried out by the Rijksmuseum show that the lead component of the lead white pigment extracted from the picture derives from a northern European source making it improbable that the picture was painted in southern Europe, as some critics had speculated. In addition, Christie’s claims that the lead white used to paint the Saint Praxedis is from the same “batch” used to painted the Diana and her Companions, a secure work by Vermeer.

However, since the results of these tests have not been published, for the moment it is not clear what meant by the term “batch.” Many pigments used by artists, including white lead, were already being produced on a large scale with the products being delivered to the retail dealers. There exists no evidence that that might indicate if Vermeer prepared his own paints or bought them through one or other commercial venues.

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3. Unwrapping a Vermeer

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4. Tim’s Vermeer…from a painter’s point of view

After I posted various reports about the documentary film Tim’s Vermeer, a few readers encouraged me to give a scholarly assessment of Jenison’s claim that Vermeer had used an optical device called a comparator mirror as an aid to his painting. Given my limited knowledge of the use of optics in seventeenth-century painting, I found it more appropriate to examine the issue from a technical viewpoint, since I am by profession a painter. The fact that I have studied Vermeer’s painting technique and attempted to emulate his manner for over 40 years, I hope, might give me a discreet edge over non-painters in evaluating if Jenison’s device is or is not compatible with what we know of Vermeer’s pictorial strategy and technical procedures.

Following some lively discussions with Mr. Jenison on the finer points of Vermeer’s painting procedures, I was able to meet him in Texas and experiment with the comparator mirror on the premises of a full-scale mockup of scene of Vermeer’s Music Lesson which Jenison had built in order to test his hypothesis by paintings his own Vermeer.

My first attempt to use the comparator mirror was frustrating. Not only was I unable to produce acceptable pencil outlines of a black and white photograph with which Jenison had used in his first experiments, I was utterly incapable of matching on paper any of the photograph’s tonal values. To use the comparator, at least as I was attempting to use it at the moment, one is constrained to work within an extremely small area of the drawing, along a thin edge where the image of the comparator mirror abuts on the drawing below and the two can be compared. Initially I found this procedure mentally and visually stressing, and at odds with my experience in conceiving and making paintings.

With a little more practice I was able to produce a few acceptable contours, even though they lacked any sort of artistic quality. However, seeing that I am not particularly skilled with a pencil, I though it best to test the device with paint and brush with which I have greater familiarity, even though on first consideration the oil painting technique seemed even more at odds with the mirror’s limitations than with dry drawing.

Surprisingly, I made rapid progress with the oil medium. Although with a certain fatigue, I learned to define first simple and then complex contours with a fine-tipped brush and began, even more surprisingly, I marveled at how it was possible to match with utmost precision both the chromatic and tonal values of my painting with those of the mirror in a completely objective manner.

Having made substantial progress in coordinating mind, eye, brush and mirror after a few painting sessions, I started afresh and began to depict a small portion of Jenison’s Vermeer mockup Vermeer room following what I have come to understand of Vermeer’s multi-step painting technique. Beginning with a schematic line drawing which served to fixed the most salient contours of the scene, I first underpainted the lights and darks with monochrome brown (raw umber plus black) and white paints without, however, systematically consulting the comparator mirror. I was, in fact, interested in testing how close I could get to the correct values on my own.

Once the underpainting was thoroughly dry, I began to apply the final colors over it using thick opaque paint in the lights and thinner paint in the shadows, according to seventeenth-century prescription. In order to render a given passage I first mixed, as all painters do, the proper paints on the palette attempting to match them as closely as possible to the color and tonal value combining what I perceived in nature with I had learned through practice. I then applied the mixture to the canvas and compared the values of my paint to those of the corresponding passage in the mirror. I sometimes discovered that both the color and tone of my mixture were very close to those seen in the mirror, but just as often I was struck by how poorly I had interpreted nature notwithstanding my decades of experience. In a back and forth manner I was able to register the erred values of my work with those of the mirror and return to painting. Once the proper values were firmly in place, I freehanded most of the modelling as I would have done without using an optical aid, taking care to verify the accuracy of my progress via the comparator mirror at regular intervals. The comparator mirror was also of help in verifying difficult contours and defining the smallest details that I had been unable to capture by freehand.

In any case, once I had registered the values of my painting with those of the mirror, the passage appeared much more true to life (painters simply say “right”).

Although the set of mirrors and lens (Jenison’s used a double convex lens of the camera obscura in coordination with a concave mirror and a comparator mirror) requires periodic adjustments in order to view the different areas of the scene, this does not unduly interrupt the painting process once one has acquired the necessary skill maneuver them.

Conclusion

Given Jenison’s complete lack of painting experience, he painted his Vermeer employing the comparator mirror, as would be expected, in the most literal of manners. He painstakingly matched what he saw in the mirror with paint applied directly, alla prima, forgoing any sort of layering techniques that we know Vermeer and his more accomplished colleagues sometimes employed. This aspect of Jenison’s approach provoked considerable criticism, including my own. It was reasoned that Vermeer could not have used the comparator mirror because Jenison’s essentially paint-by-numbers technique, and the consequential one-layer paint structure gotten by such an approach, is completely at odds with the multi-layered structure of Vermeer’s paintings.

According to my experience the comparator mirror neither dictates nor limits the painter to any fixed procedure or techniques, including those used by Vermeer. Certainly, it would interfere no more with the creative painting process than a systematic use of the camera obscura.

If it is used in a “painterly” manner, as any experienced painter would be naturally inclined to do, the comparator mirror opens the possibility to study color more precisely than can be done with the camera obscura alone and allows the artist to match with remarkable efficacy the illusive tonal values of nature, which in effect are crucial to Vermeer’s unique brand of realism. Furthermore, I discovered that the erred tonal values of my monochrome underpainting did not compromise the rendering of the proper tones and colors of the final paint layers. The aim of seventeenth-century underpainting, as I understand it, was not to establish the precise tonal values of the final work from the very beginning, but rather to approximate the distribution of darks and lights thereby creating a sort of compositional blueprint which provided a solid base on to which the successive layers of colored paint could be applied in a more efficient manner. Although I used the glazing technique in only one passage (red madder over an underpainting of vermillion), it was evident that with some practice it would be relatively easy for any practiced painter to anticipate the tonal and chromatic values of the colored underpainting so they might eventually match those made visible in the mirror once the passage had been glazed with the final color.

The use of such a simple device as the comparator mirror in tandem with the camera obscura lens, in my opinion, is technically compatible with Vermeer’s known painting techniques (to be distinguished from his “pointillist” mannerism), and it is in line with what Lawrence Gowing appropriately called the artist’s “optical way” as well as the artist’s search for absolute tonal authenticity.

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5. Mauritshuis reopens on June 27, 2014

View of Delft, Johannes Vermeer

Mauritshuis Opening on 27 June 2014

The Mauritshuis will open its doors on Friday 27 June 2014 after a two-year renovation.

The world famous painting collection, including three paintings by Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The View of Delft and Diana and her Companions, will once again be displayed in the fully renovated and expanded Mauritshuis. After a celebratory opening, the museum will be open to the public for visit free of charge until midnight. The renovated Mauritshuis doubles its surface with an underground expansion into a building on the other side of the street. Still, little about the character of the museum will change. The appearance and unique homely atmosphere are preserved, thanks to the design of Hans van Heeswijk architects. The most obvious change is the relocation of the main entrance to the forecourt. Visitors will descend via the stairs or lift to a light foyer, connecting ‘old’ and ‘new’ underground. The new part, the Royal Dutch Shell Wing, will house the exhibition space, the brasserie and the museum shop. Furthermore, it will accommodate the educational Art Workshop, a library, and event rooms.

The museum has also rennovated its website and has added new high-resolution image is their Vermeer’s paintings which can be veiwed with a zoom feature or downloaded to one’s hard disk. The downloadable images are lower resolution than the zoom versions.

zoom features:
Girl with a Pearl Earring
View of Delft
Diana and her Compantions

downloads
:
Girl with a Pearl Earring
View of Delft
Diana and her Compantions

Mauritshuis
Korte Vijverberg 8
2513 AB The Hague
P.O. Box 536
2501 CM The Hague

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6. Young Woman Seated at the Virginals exhibition at Philadelphia Museum of Art extended to September 30

Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at the Virginals
Philadelphia Museuym of Art
October 26, 2013 – September 30, 2014

from the museum website:
Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at the Virginals will be joined by two additional loans from the Leiden Collection: Frans Hals’s Portrait of Samuel Ampzing and The Coat of Many Colors attributed to Rembrandt’s pupil Gerbrand van den Eeckhout. All three paintings are on view in the galleries of European art 1500–1850 on the second floor, in the company of a selection of the Museum’s own paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. The Museum possesses more than three hundred seventeenth-century Dutch paintings, the largest collection of its kind in North America.

For further in formation, click here.

exhibition curator:
Christopher Atkins, Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture

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7. Another New Vermeer?

Saint Praxedis, Vermeer (?)
A copy (left) of the Saint Praxedis (right) by Felice Ficherelli hung together in Rome, 2012

On June 6, Christie’s announced that it was declaring the Saint Praxedis a Vermeer. According to Henry Pettifer, the head of Old Master paintings at Christie’s, after isotope analysis tests carried out by scientists at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Free University, it was found that the lead-white of the painting was a precise match for that used in another early Vermeer, Diana and her Companions— “So precise as to suggest that the same batch of paint could have been used.” He stated that the research, including an analysis of the date and signature on the painting, amounted to “a compelling endorsement” of Vermeer’s authorship. In the event that the painting is accepted by art scholars as an authentic Vermeer, it will become the second once-doubted painting in ten years to be accepted into the painter’s thin oeuvre largely on the basis of technical analysis.

The auction house excepts the work could fetch about $13 million when it is auction in early July. The work is part of the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, a Polish-born art-lover who amassed a huge trove of art after marrying Johnson & Johnson heir J. Seward Johnson. Piasecka died last year.

The Painting

The painting is believed to be a copy of a work by Felice Ficherelli (1605 – 1669 ?) from about 1640–45, now in the Collection Fergmani in Ferrara. It represents the early Roman martyr, Saint Praxedis or Praxedes, who squeezes a martyr’s blood from a sponge into an ornate vessel. The most obvious difference between the copy and the original is that there is no crucifix in the Ferrara work.

Critical Fortunes

The painting’s provenance before the mid-twentieth century is unknown. The collector Jacob Reder bought it at a minor auction house in New York in 1943. The painting was first publically viewed in 1969 when it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a work by Felice Ficherelli in the exhibition Florentine Baroque Art from American Collections, no. 39. Vermeer’s signature in the lower left was noted in the catalogue after it had been examined by Ted Rousseau and members of the conservation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After the work appeared in New York exhibition, it was first published (1969) as a Vermeer by Michael Kitson, an art historian with the University of London. Kitson believed the signature was integral with the paint surface and “the form of the signature corresponds exactly to those on Vermeer’s early works, particularly the Girl Asleep.” Kitson likened the Saint Praxedis copy to Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, for its “breadth of form and handling and a similar gravity (though not sickness) of mood.”*

In 1986, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. enthusiastically embraced the work as an authentic Vermeer** the citing the stylistic and technical similarities with the two early Vermeers and the essentially Dutch character of the modeling of Saint Praxedis’ face, which he compared to the down turned head of Vermeer’s Maid Asleep. Wheelock noted two signatures. One, at the lower left was the name “Meer ”and the date “1655.” On the suggestion of Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Wheelock advanced that the other inscription contained the word “Meer,” followed by the letter “N,” the letter “R,” then two lower case “o’s.” Wheelock holds that both the signatures and the date are integral to the paint surface and that the second could be interpreted as: “[Ver]Meer N[aar] R[ip] o [s] o” or “Vermeer after Riposo,” Ficherelli’s Italian nickname (Repose).

However, on the occasion of the 1994-1995 Vermeer Washington/The Hague exhibition where the work was shown by Wheelock as the earliest known painting by Vermeer, its authenticity was seriously contested by a number of art historians and conservators. Jørgen Wadum, then the chief curator of the Mauritshuis, firmly stated that the “Meer 1655” inscription had been added after the painting had been completed. Contrary to Wheelock, he believed the brushwork of Saint Praxedis had nothing to do with the brushwork of either the Diana and her Companions or the Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. He also noted that no smalt smalt, a dull blue pigment which is now obsolete, had been detected in the Saint Praxedis while both the Christ in the House of Mary and Martha and the Diana and her Companions had significant amounts of smalt.

When Saint Praxedis was examined by Marten Jan Bok, a specialist on the 17th-century Utrecht painter Johannes van der Meer, he was unable even to see the second inscription, and in any case, he wrote “nowhere in 17th-century Dutch painting will you find such an inscription on a copied painting.”

Ben Broos found that Wheelock’s interpretation of the signature as “Meer naar Riposo” was “wishful thinking” at best. “In my opinion, Saint Praxedis is the latest wrongly attributed Vermeer of the caliber of Van der Laan and Vrel.” Other experts such as Albert Blankert, Gregor J. M. Weber, and the National Gallery in London’s Christopher Brown have arrived at similar conclusions.

In 2002,  Jon Boone wrote, “In looking at Saint Praxedis one does have a hard time understanding its attribution to Vermeer. It is a second-rate copy of a mediocre painting by an undistinguished artist, with certain features—such as the awkward wrap-around hands—antithetical to Vermeer’s sensibility as well as his draftsmanship. While the face itself is beautiful, certainly more charming than that of the original, it is still a facsimile face, a close copy of the source.” And further: “The Saint Praxedis attribution is severely strained, failing the standard of Ockham’s razor: The simplest explanation covering all the facts of the case is that the painting is a copy executed either by the original painter, Ficherelli, in Florence, or by another artist in Ficherelli’s circle.”***

In fact, there is no evidence that Vermeer had ever visited Italy or that the Ficherelli’s original, or an eventual copy, had ever traveled outside the country.

Ivan Gaskell had written earlier “that as a result of, first, examining the painting while exhibited in Washington (scarcely optimal conditions) in conjunction with Vermeer’s two early history paintings, secondly, of discussing the work with specialist colleagues, and, thirdly, reviewing the published arguments, I feel unable to accept an unqualified attribution of Saint Praxedis to Vermeer.”

In his 2008 complete catalogue of Vermeer’s painting, Walter Liedtke does not even mention the Saint Praxedis, while in 2009 he wrote “the repetition is probably by the Florentine painter [Fichherelli] himself.”****

* KITSON, Michael. “Florentine Baroque Art in New York.” Burlingion Magazine, Vol. 111, No. 795 (Jun., 1969). 409-410.

** WHEELOCK, Arthur K. Jr. “‘St. Praxedis’: New Light on the Early Career of Vermeer.” Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 7, No. 14 (1986). 71-89.

*** BOONE, Jon. “Saint Praxedis: Missing the Mark.” In Essential Vermeer. 2002 < http://www.essentialvermeer.com/saint_praxedis.html>

*** LIEDTKE, Walter: Vermeer: The Milkmaid. The Metorpolitan Museum of Art, New York. 2009. note 5, 23.

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8. Vermeer-related lecture

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.

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9. Italians divided (as usual) by art exhibition

Girl with a pearl Earring exhibition in Bologna, Italy

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.

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10. Upcoming Gerrit Dou Exhibition

Gerrit Dou: The Leiden Collection from New York
March 9 – August 31, 2014
Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, Netherlands

Gerrrit Douc, Cat on a Balustrade

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
http://www.lakenhal.nl/images/persberichten/289/1.jpg

and

Cat on A Balustrade, perhaps more in tune with modern tastes.
http://www.lakenhal.nl/images/persberichten/289/2.jpg

exhibition page:
http://www.lakenhal.nl/persberichtendetail.php?id=289

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11. Tim’s Vermeer: Pollice verso, but which way?

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

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12. Vermeer Fever: Getting too Hot?

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.

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13. Introducing Mr. Vermeer to Taiwan (Chinese Style)

girl-with-a-pearl-earring

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

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14. Five Vermeer Thefts

thieves

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.

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15. Vermeer Platoon

vermeer-gazing

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.

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16. Tim’s Vermeer Update

More on the documentary film, TIM’S VERMEER.

Vermeer-jug

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.

“Reverse-Engineering a Genius (Has a Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?)”
Kurt Andersen, Vanity Fair
November 29, 2013
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/11/vermeer-secret-tool-mirrors-lenses

“Engineering His Own Vermeer. Tim Jenison, an Inventor, Paints ‘The Music Lesson’”
Dave Itzkoff, New York Times
November 27, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/movies/tim-jenison-an-inventor-paints-the-music-lesson.html?emc=eta1

“A Man Obsessed by a Dutch Master: In ‘Tim’s Vermeer,’ a documentary co-produced by Penn and Teller, an inventor tries to reach into Vermeer’s bag of tricks”
Stefanie Cohen, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304011304579222152499998092

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17. Vermeer’s Guitar Player Returns Home

Vermeer's Guitar Player agina in the Kenwood House

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.

drawn from:
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>

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18. Tim’s Vermeer – Shaking Things Up?

tim

Tim Jenison

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.

video interviews:
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

review:
Variety, “Penn and Teller’s uncanny crowdpleaser begs the question, is it still a masterpiece if an amateur could do it?”, Peter Debruge
http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/telluride-film-review-tims-vermeer-1200596123/

TIM’S VERMEEER
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/

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19. Vermeer again star of the silver screen

vermeer_music_film

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.

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20. Vermeer and Technique: a National Gallery web study

vermeer-eye

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.

Topics include:

Support and ground
Infrared examination
Vermeer’s palette
Binding medium
Paint application
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.

 

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21. Getty Loosens digital image policy

terbrugghes-face

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
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=113249

Pictura (An Allegory of Painting) by Frans van Mieris
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=822

Head of a Woman
by Michael Sweerts
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=788

Double Portrait
by Michael Sweerts
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=896

A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy
by Pieter de Hooch
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=852

My favorite is, however, Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Bacchante and Ape (6534 x 7548 pixels!)
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=845

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.

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22. When getting it right seems too easy

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).

my-rolin

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.

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23. Vermeer Stamps

For some reason unknown to me, the love for Vermeer’s art can sometimes express itself in unusual forms.

vermeer_stamp_02

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.

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24. Vermeer on exhibit in Philadelphia

rolin-face

Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Philadelphia Museum of Art
October 26, 2013 – March 2014
curator:
Christopher Atkins, Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture
location:
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.

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25. Master of Light free online

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.

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