February 21, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

The hunt for as many as nine elusive Vermeer paintings continues

The hunt for as many as nine elusive Vermeer paintings continues

With only 37 authenticated Johannes Vermeer paintings (28 in the Rijksmuseum’s offered-out exhibition), could there be a lot more out there, not yet recognised as from his hand? Vermeer’s manufacturing was absolutely greater, so the hunt carries on for the lacking masterpieces. Gurus think that a quantity are however unaccounted for.

Around nine Vermeers that have disappeared are detailed in outdated documents, including a self-portrait—which would signify the biggest discovery. At the 1696 sale of the Jacob Dissius collection (inherited from the artist’s significant Delft patron, Maria de Knuijt), there was a “portrait of Vermeer in a place with several accessories”, explained as “uncommonly beautifully painted by him”. This is not The Art of Portray (1666-68, now at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), in which the artist is depicted from powering.

The re-emergence of lost paintings ‘might properly lose mild on Vermeer’s progress’

Pieter Roelofs, curator

Pieter Roelofs, the co-curator of the Rijksmuseum’s Vermeer (right up until 4 June), indicates in the exhibition catalogue that the composition of the dropped self-portrait may well perfectly have been copied by, or furnished the inspiration for, Michiel van Musscher, a a bit afterwards Dutch artist. He thinks that Van Musscher’s A Self-portrait of the Artist in his Studio (1670, private selection) was “probably painted immediately after Vermeer’s design [the lost self-portrait]”. If so, Van Musscher would seem to have substituted his individual facial options for those of Vermeer.

3 other Vermeers are mentioned in the Dissius inventory. These contain a photo explained as “a view” of a household or residences, which should be a misplaced cityscape, presumably carried out at all-around the identical time as The Small Street (around 1658, Rijksmuseum) and Check out of Delft (1660-61, Mauritshuis, The Hague). Dissius also owned the missing portray recorded as “a gentleman washing his arms, in a point of view room, with statues”.

The sculptor Johannes Larson, who worked partly in London, was a single of the earliest collectors, owning “a facial area by Vermeer”. This was recorded at his dying in The Hague in 1664.

Five other Vermeers that arise in 18th-century inventories in all probability also document missing paintings: “Woman combing her hair”, “The pay a visit to to the tomb” (quite possibly a Biblical subject matter), the mythological “Jupiter, Venus and Mercury”, “Painter taking part in a violin” and “Woman having oysters and pouring out wine”.

Idea of the iceberg?

Artwork historians have found it particularly challenging to track down Vermeer’s work for a amount of causes: his establishing style, his large variety of subject issue, the simple fact that only 50 % his identified operates are signed, and, most importantly, for the reason that he remained relatively unidentified exterior Holland until his popularity designed in the late 19th century.

The crucial concern is irrespective of whether the 37 surviving operates and the 9 or so in early documents symbolize all (or just about all) of Vermeer’s oeuvre—or if they are just the idea of the iceberg.

Elucidating the artist’s process

Most professionals believe that there have been not many more than the authenticated 37, with Roelofs suggesting that the total may well be 45 to 50. This works out at just around two paintings a 12 months. If the amount is better, then this casts additional question on the assumption frequently made that Vermeer painted bit by bit and meticulously.

But if there are a substantially much larger number of misplaced Vermeers, which appears similarly plausible, then we may well well will need to revise our look at on how the learn of Delft made. And as Roelofs admits, the re-emergence of misplaced paintings “might nicely drop light on Vermeer’s progress, should they at any time be rediscovered”.