The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is understandably delighted to have the ability to assemble 28 work of Johannes Vermeer’s small oeuvre for its survey present subsequent yr, however what is especially fascinating is what lies behind the numbers.
The museum has upgraded three work which have been questioned by distinguished specialists. This widening of the oeuvre, along with related technical analysis, is prone to have a profound impression on how artwork historians regard Vermeer’s artwork.
The most important shock is the inclusion of Lady with a Flute (1664-67 or later), from the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork in Washington, DC. As just lately as 7 October, the US gallery revealed that its curator, Marjorie Wieseman, believes that the portray was produced by “an affiliate of Vermeer—not by the Dutch artist himself, as was beforehand believed”. This adopted an in depth scientific examination. The portray is labelled as a studio work within the present Washington, DC exhibition Vermeer’s Secrets and techniques (till 8 January 2023).
The Rijksmuseum overtly disagrees, now accepting Lady with a Flute as totally genuine. It’s uncommon for a museum to downgrade one in every of its personal work at exactly the identical second when the attribution is upgraded by one other establishment with particular experience.
Pieter Roelofs, the Rijksmuseum co-curator, informed the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool: “It’s being lent as a ‘non-Vermeer’, however we are going to cling it as an actual Vermeer.” Lightheartedly, he added that “the doubt will disappear in the course of the flight over the ocean”.
A portray of Saint Praxedis can also be now thought to be an genuine Vermeer. It’s a copy of a piece (1640-45, now within the Fergnani assortment, Ferrara) by the Italian artist Felice Ficherelli. Saint Praxedis (1655) was first recognized in 1969 as a doable copy by Vermeer, due to an obvious signature, and for a few years its champion was Arthur Wheelock, a Vermeer specialist then on the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork.
In any other case it was extensively rejected, together with by the late Walter Liedtke (previously of the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, New York) and Jørgen Wadum (Mauritshuis, The Hague). It was additionally excluded from The Younger Vermeer exhibition held in The Hague, Dresden and Edinburgh in 2010-11.
In 2014 Saint Praxedis was auctioned by Christie’s as a Vermeer (by this time with extra widespread help from specialists), promoting for £6.2m. We will report that will probably be coming to the Rijksmuseum subsequent yr courtesy of Tokyo’s Nationwide Museum of Western Artwork, on mortgage from a Japanese firm. A technical examination by the Rijksmuseum has led to its full acceptance.
The ultimate addition to the oeuvre is Younger Lady Seated at a Virginal (1670-72). Though it had been extensively rejected as a Vermeer for many years, it was re-examined shortly earlier than being supplied at Sotheby’s in 2004, when it fetched £16m. Regardless of some preliminary doubts, it has change into more and more accepted in recent times and, as soon as once more, a Rijksmuseum technical evaluation has confirmed its authenticity. The non-public proprietor is the New York funding supervisor Thomas Kaplan, as a part of his Leiden Assortment.
Vermeer’s oeuvre has expanded considerably in latest a long time. Albert Blankert’s 1975 Vermeer catalogue included 31 totally accepted works, and till a number of years in the past many specialists would have put the quantity at round 34. Now the Rijksmuseum says it’s 37.
One other fascinating query is which Vermeers won’t be coming to the Rijksmuseum. The exhibition curators did their utmost to get each single image, however there are nonetheless anticipated to be 9 absentees. Two work can’t be lent due to situations imposed by their bequests. These are each on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork: A Maid Asleep (1656-57) and Research of a Younger Lady (1665-67).
Barring a miraculous restoration, The Live performance (1663-66) can even be absent. It was stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
Three Vermeers are too fragile to journey: Girl on the Virginals with a Gentleman (early 1660s, Royal Assortment, London), Younger Lady with a Water Pitcher (round 1662, Metropolitan Museum of Artwork) and The Guitar Participant (1672, Kenwood/English Heritage).
Vermeer’s best masterpiece, The Artwork of Portray (1666-68, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) is just not being lent, due to its fragility and in addition due to its significance for museum guests. Nevertheless, it was on mortgage to 6 exhibitions from 2000 to 2008.
Though the Musée du Louvre in Paris is generously lending The Lacemaker (1666-68), The Astronomer (1668) is at the moment on mortgage to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as a part of a serious payment association. The Abu Dhabi mortgage, which started in November 2021, was initially on account of run till October 2022, however was just lately prolonged to June 2023 (the month that the Rijksmuseum present closes). The lack of The Astronomer is especially unlucky, since its pendant, The Geographer (1669, Städel Museum, Frankfurt), will likely be coming.
The ultimate Vermeer which has eluded the Rijksmuseum is The Lady with a Wine Glass (1658-59). It belongs to the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig, central Germany. Though lent to Dresden final yr, the gallery says that it’s too necessary a piece for the museum and they didn’t really feel they might lend this fragile image once more.
Though the Rijksmuseum is sticking with the determine of 28 work, its curators have a lingering hope that one or two absentees would possibly nonetheless be coaxed into the exhibition earlier than the opening.
• Vermeer, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 10 February-4 June