Largest-Ever Vermeer Exhibition Opening at Rijksmuseum in 2023

Johannes Vermeer, “Officer and Laughing Girl” (1657-1658) (photo Joseph Coscia Jr, courtesy the Frick Collection)

Despite his acclaim as a master painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Johannes Vermeer produced a small number of works, only about 35 of which are known today. This February, some 28 of them will go on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, making the show the largest Vermeer exhibition ever staged and a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see so many works by the artist in one place.

The paintings are arriving from institutions across the world, including the Frick Collection in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Gemäldegalerie Galerie in Berlin. Some of the works are also coming from private collections and have never been displayed to the public.

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Vermeer’s detailed paintings encompass meticulously rendered depictions of 17th-century Dutch cityscapes, domestic interiors, and portraits of subjects engaged in daily life. His works contributed to the Netherlands’ practice of genre painting, then around a century old, in which artists portrayed common people rather than religious or legendary figures.

Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1664-1667) (courtesy Mauritshuis Museum)

The artist led a short career and died at the age of 43. Further limiting the artist’s existing body of work, his 1633–1666 painting “The Concert” was one of the 13 works stolen in the infamous 1991 unsolved heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Another painting, the famous “Girl with a Flute” (1666-1675), was de-attributed this October when research by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC revealed it was actually painted by a follower.

It’s the first time that the Rijksmuseum has organized a show dedicated to the Golden Age master, who lived and worked in another canal-laced city called Delft. The museum is collaborating with the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, which is loaning its famous painting “The Girl With a Pearl Earring” (1664–1667).

Together, the two museums are researching all of the Vermeer works located in the Netherlands and some abroad. Using scanning technology, the team is examining the artist’s painting process, uncovering instances when Vermeer changed his mind about what color to use or which subject matter to depict as he created each work.

“Vermeer is one of the most amazing artists ever,” said Rijksmuseum General Director Taco Dibbits. “He was able to create an intimacy that was never seen before.”

Johannes Vermeer, “View of Delft” (1660–1661) (courtesy Mauritshuis Museum)


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