Home Arts Does the Philadelphia Museum of Art hold an unknown Vermeer?

Does the Philadelphia Museum of Art hold an unknown Vermeer?

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Could a virtually unknown Vermeer painting be languishing in storage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? His photos are very rare and the curators of the current Rijksmuseum retrospective Vermeer (until June 4) indicate that there are only 37 works left.

Arie Wallert, a former scientist at the Rijksmuseum, told a symposium in Amsterdam that he believes there is one more. He is convinced that there are two versions of the young woman playing the guitar: the painting long accepted at Kenwood Housein North London, and a very similar composition that has been in the Philadelphia museum stores for nearly a century.

Johannes Vermeer, The guitar player (c. 1672), in the collection of Kenwood House, London

Philadelphia lady with a Guitar was assumed to be the original, until the Kenwood version appeared in 1927. But because Kenwood The guitar player was in much better condition and looked authentic, it was quickly accepted as the main release.

As Vermeer was not believed to have had a workshop or followers, and no other contemporary copies of his works are known, the Philadelphia picture was later downgraded as a later copy. It has never been presented in the main rooms of the museum and has very rarely been reproduced in color (the museum’s website has only one black and white picture).

Wallert, who examined Philadelphia lady with a Guitar and analyzed paint samples, believes that it is not just a 17th century work, but is in fact a “Vermeer painting”.

He identified traces of ultramarine, an expensive pigment used by the master, as well as lead-tin yellow, which ceased to be used around 1700. He describes the pigments he found as “combinations that no one no one else was using at the time”.

Wallert also made an accurate comparison of the two images, which are the same size, and he believes they were both made from the same working drawing, which is now lost.

The compositions are practically the same, with one essential difference: the hairstyle of the girl. Although Wallert did not comment on this, as it was not his specialty, Kenwood image corkscrews were worn in Vermeer’s day, although they would have been complicated to maintain. . If both paintings are indeed by Vermeer, it is difficult to explain why he chose to depict two rather different hairstyles.

Unfortunately, the Philadelphia painting is in what Wallert describes as a “shocking” state. Much of the top layers of paint have been abraded, probably from excessive cleaning before it entered the museum in 1933. The paint was last kept in 1973, when the old varnish and touch-ups were removed. removed, revealing considerable surface damage and an old tear in lower right.

The earliest firm provenance of the Philadelphia picture appears to be the Cremer collection in Brussels in the 19th century. It was later acquired by Pennsylvania attorney John Johnson, who died in 1917.

Philadelphia’s statute lady with a Guitar will now have to be reassessed further, following recent investigations at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Washington scholars have argued controversially that their own girl with a flute was made in “Vermeer’s studio” (dating it to 1669-75), a surprise since until now it was assumed that Vermeer worked alone, without assistants. The Rijksmuseum rejects Washington’s conclusion and is currently exhibiting the Girl with the flute (1664-67) as by the master.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC concluded that girl with a flute (circa 1669-75) was made in “Vermeer’s studio”

But if the existence of a studio is accepted, it could open the door to the Philadelphia review. lady with a Guitar as a work by someone close to Vermeer, rather than, as Wallert argues, by the master.

Kenwood’s first version, now dated to around 1670-1672, is among the artist’s final works. It could not be featured in the current Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, as its fragile condition made its journey too risky.

Philadelphia Museum Director Sasha Suda comments, “The future of lady with a Guitar will be to inspire discussion, embrace scholarship, and seek further knowledge and enlightenment from this mysterious painting nearly 350 years after its creation.”

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