Largest ever assortment of Vermeer work unveiled in blockbuster present

Written by Nick Glass, Mahaz NewsAmsterdam

Contributors Natasha Maguder, Mahaz News

“The most mysterious and beloved artist of all time.” Without a touch of apology, that is how the overall director of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Taco Dibbits, describes Vermeer. And it is exhausting to disagree. Of course, now we have different extra recognizable names — Leonardo, Rembrandt, Picasso, Van Gogh — however has every other nice artist been so intensely studied and revisited lately because the Dutchman Johannes Vermeer of Delft?

Dibbits has pulled off the artwork world’s coup of the 12 months. And he is aware of it. For the subsequent 4 months, the Rijksmuseum is enjoying host to the largest Vermeer exhibition of this, or every other, lifetime.

Scholars disagree about precisely what number of work Vermeer left behind. The Rijksmuseum now resolutely places the quantity at 37, the National Gallery in Washington at 34. Whichever it’s, having 28 of them in a single place is unprecedented. Advance ticket gross sales for the blockbuster exhibition, which opens Friday, have already exceeded 200,000.

“It’s very exciting,” Dibbits says. “I have had this dream of having all the paintings together. Having 28 here is something we never thought possible.”

"Girl with a Pearl Earring," by Johannes Vermeer.

“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” by Johannes Vermeer. Credit: Margareta Svensson

Even this quantity is topic to debate. The National Gallery lately determined that “Girl with a Flute” is not by the grasp himself however by an unnamed follower. Nevertheless, the Rijksmuseum has fortunately borrowed the portray for its present, together with three different Vermeers from the National, and it firmly disagrees concerning the re-attribution. The Rijksmuseum’s head of work and sculpture, Pieter Roelofs, made mild of the matter, wryly telling a Dutch newspaper that when “Girl with a Flute” flew throughout the Atlantic it merely grew to become a Vermeer once more.

We are used to seeing Vermeers completely reproduced in books, posters and postcards. In actual life, nevertheless, “Girl with a Flute” is a surprisingly small image. It hangs along with the essential and transitional portray within the artist’s evolution, “Girl with a Red Hat,” on a chosen Rijksmuseum wall — every portray simply 9 inches by 7 inches.

Museum workers install "Girl with a Red Hat" at the Rijksmuseum.

Museum employees set up “Girl with a Red Hat” on the Rijksmuseum. Credit: Courtesy Kelly Schenk/Rijksmuseum

The re-attribution is a part of an enchanting and exhaustive Vermeer analysis undertaking involving not solely the Rijksmuseum and National Gallery, but additionally the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The strategies concerned are extraordinary: a sort of non-invasive archaeology, with strategies first pioneered by NASA to map minerals on Mars and the Moon. Museum scientists and conservators have been delving under Vermeer’s meticulously painted surfaces to look at his underpainting and, in a couple of circumstances, under that to his preliminary sketches. The outcomes have astounded all of them.

‘It’s as in case you are trying over his shoulder’

Until now, we have identified Vermeer as a methodical and elegant artist, a magical painter of sunshine and luminous moments of Seventeenth-century Dutch middle-class life. He captures arresting home scenes: girls studying or writing letters, a housemaid pouring milk, a girl enjoying a lute, a younger lady carrying a pearl earring.

“Vermeer depicts those moments of intense happiness where time stands still,” Dibbits enthuses. “Everything comes together. There is this complete tranquility, this intimacy.”

The standard knowledge is that Vermeer took his time — maybe not more than two or three footage a 12 months, throughout twenty years of portray. But the brand new analysis additionally means that he might be impulsive, spontaneous and impatient, attacking the canvas shortly with broad brushstrokes in sketches and underpaint.

Rijksmuseum conservator Ige Verslype is thrilled. “We really see the first creative steps of Vermeer,” she says. “We can really follow him in his way of painting. It’s as if you are looking over his shoulder and seeing what he’s doing.”

Take “Woman in Blue reading a Letter,” which Verslype restored some 10 years in the past. This time round, it has been within the lab — on and off — for 3 weeks. Again, there have been revelations.

"Woman in Blue Reading a Letter," by Johannes Vermeer.

“Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” by Johannes Vermeer. Credit: Courtesy Rijksmuseum

“It has a very subtle tonality,” Verslype mentioned of the work, which was painted within the 1660s. “And that’s because of the way he built it up with a greenish and brownish first layer, and then on top he used, in every layer, the blue pigment ultramarine — not only in the blue chair, the blue tablecloth, but also in the walls, in the shadows, even in her face and hands.”

Ultramarine, constituted of lapis lazuli, was the period’s most costly pigment used. Vermeer’s common use of it means that his portray profession, whereas quick, should have been comparatively profitable. Yet, after his loss of life, he was shortly forgotten. His work was rediscovered by a French artwork critic virtually two centuries later.

Now, the public sale report for a Vermeer stands at $30 million, the sum fetched by “A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals” at Sotheby’s in 2004. Most Vermeer fans agree is that it was an excellent however not an awesome work. It was acquired by the Las Vegas on line casino mogul, Steve Wynn who later offered it on. Its present proprietor has lent to the Rijksmuseum present. It’s anybody’s guess what an awesome Vermeer would now make at public sale — definitely over $100 million or maybe double or treble that

A Vermeer overdose

Standing in entrance of “The Milkmaid,” Rijksmuseum conservator Anna Krekeler explains what emerged from the scans, not least the objects Vermeer overpainted: a rack of hanging jugs behind his topic’s head and a big fireplace basket for drying garments on the ground. He painted them out to simplify the picture. His focus is solely on the maid and that jug of milk she pours for eternity, right here and on numerous fridge magnets.

"The Milkmaid" while being studied.

“The Milkmaid” whereas being studied. Credit: Courtesy Rijksmuseum/Kelly Schenk

"The Milkmaid," by Johannes Vermeer.

“The Milkmaid,” by Johannes Vermeer. Credit: Courtesy Rijksmuseum

Experts like Krekeler are serving to develop our understanding of Vermeer, however we nonetheless know little or no about him, as each a person and painter. Born an innkeeper’s son within the metropolis of Delft within the Dutch Republic in 1632, he died there penniless in 1675, aged simply 43. He left a spouse and 11 youngsters, with one other 4 youngsters having pre-deceased him.

The Rijksmuseum’s head of tremendous artwork, Gregor Weber is aware of extra about Vermeer than simply about every other residing artwork historian. His latest analysis has explored, amongst a lot else, how the painter’s conversion to Catholicism — and his subsequent interactions with Jesuit monks in Delft — influenced his work. At 66, that is the curator’s retirement present, he says. But he has been obsessive about the painter since he visited the National Gallery in London as a 15-year-old schoolboy and encountered two Vermeers hanging on a wall.

“I think I fainted a little,” he recollects. “This artist with such glowing light. I was really surprised.” And since then? “I’ve been busy with Vermeer. A lifetime,” he replies. At 18, Weber constructed a digital camera obscura, or pinhole digital camera, at house to check whether or not Vermeer may need used one.

We stroll across the exhibition collectively. His phrases stream out and his ardour is palpable. Every time Weber appears at a Vermeer, he appears to identify one thing new, he says, smiling.

"The Lacemaker," by Johannes Vermeer.

“The Lacemaker,” by Johannes Vermeer. Credit: Johannes Vermeer/Musée du Louvre/Rijksmuseum

Standing in entrance of the tiniest of work, “The Lacemaker’ (measuring 9.5 inches by 8.25), the curator explains how Vermeer saw things differently from his contemporaries — and how he understood the viewer’s gaze. Vermeer obviously centered his image on the lacemaker and the expression of intense concentration on her face as she works the fabric with her hands. The threads of lace — red and white — in the foreground are painted in a blur. They are abstract, “like melting wax,” says Weber.

Weber believes Vermeer thought long and hard about the subject matter and composition. But the new scientific research indicates that he sometimes painted very fast. The underpaintings “are very contemporary and vivid and fast,” the curator says, adding: “In my view, he painted it inside per week. Other work in a month.”

Yet, we are left with so few to enjoy. The normal Vermeer experience is a rationed one — one, two or three, at best five, pictures in any single museum. The Rijksmuseum’s show is an altogether different, almost hallucinogenic experience. We depart overwhelmed, having seemingly overdosed on Vermeer — “Vermeered,” you could say.

There are almost too many paintings to take in on one visit. The experience has to be slowly absorbed, reflected on and then repeated. The unfamiliar Vermeers have to be seen again — and soon.

“Vermeer” runs February 10 – June 4, 2023 on the Rijksmuseum.

Source web site:

( No ratings yet )