Delft, Netherlands, where Vermeer lived his life.Report on a major retrospective currently being held at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam-Travel Observation

Delft, Netherlands, where Vermeer lived his life.Report on a major retrospective currently being held at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam-Travel Observation

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. A part of the chest of “The Letter-Writing Woman and Servant” was cut off and turned into a poster!

The largest retrospective in history has opened to the public at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, featuring 28 of Johannes Vermeer’s 37 surviving paintings. The exhibition period is from February 10 to June 4, 2023. Just before the opening of this exhibition, I visited the media preview.

In this article, I report on the highlights of the exhibition, the facts known from the latest research and the city of Delft, where Vermeer lived and was born.


“Woman Reading a Letter by the Window (detail)” / Galerie Dresden


Needless to say, Vermeer’s masterpiece “Girl with a Pearl Necklace (Part)” / Collection of Mauritshuis Museum. A popular work that became a hot topic when it came to Japan in the summer of 2012


Recent research shows that the first painted bottle holders and braziers were painted by Vermeer himself. “Woman pouring milk (detail)” / Mauritshuis Royal Museum of Art Collection

The preview of the Vermeer exhibition is finally here. What is the background behind the 28 portfolios?

“Vermeer himself would never have seen all 28 of his works in one place…” said Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbitz. This time, Vermeer’s paintings were collected by museums and private collections in seven countries around the world. Only 37 works of Vermeer survive, and he is a popular artist in every country. It is really rare to bring together 28 works, and even long-term loan overseas is quite difficult.


Tako Divits, director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


Vermeer exhibition entrance

This time, 10 rooms in the Philips Pavilion of the Rijksmuseum were generously used to display 11 themes in chronological order. Such a large space only exhibits Vermeer’s paintings, which is a masterpiece that I have never experienced before.


The environment that can be enjoyed slowly in a luxurious space is also good

The timing of the largest Vermeer exhibition in history comes at a time when the Frick Collection in New York is closed for renovations. The museum owns three paintings by Vermeer, which have been kept under wraps, and a total of seven paintings are on show in the Netherlands for the first time in 200 years.

In addition to “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The Milkmaid”, I would like to introduce works that left a deep impression on me, which are framed and interlaced with partial paulownia.

What the latest research reveals

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the study of Vermeer’s paintings progresses every year. There are three novelties in this large-scale retrospective that deserve attention:

(1) New research sheds light on Vermeer’s social status at the time, the environment in Delft where he produced his work, and his relationship with other artists and residents.

(2) Using the latest scanning technology, for example in “The Milkmaid”, we find that already painted jugs have been deliberately rubbed off. In addition, we were able to analyze the inside of the sleeves of jackets such as the “woman in blue” after 90 scans using a micro-scanner with high-resolution capabilities.

(3) Vermeer’s paintings use perspective. He supposedly used an optical device called a “casque obscura,” which projected an image by passing light through a small hole. Vermeer converted from Protestantism to Catholicism after marriage, and later formed a deep friendship with the Catholic Jesuits, and this “obscura” may be provided by the Jesuits, and I understand it.


Camera Obscura (transcribed from the Vermeer Exhibition Catalogue)

Future investigations using microscanners will continue and will be announced at an international symposium at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 2025, the 350th anniversary of Vermeer’s death.

An exhibit detailing his career as a painter, the people involved and the environment

There’s Procures, Vermeer’s depiction of a brothel (a work depicting the New Testament allegory of the “wanderer”), but probably influenced by his mother-in-law Maria van Baburen’s Procures, owned by Tins. This real painting is on display.


Van Baburen’s “Procurement” / Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Vermeer became acquainted with the famous Delft painter Leonard Brammer and the art collector Willem Delang, and was able to understand various painting genres in the Netherlands and abroad. In 1944, he became a painter of the Lucas Association, which is an important association. Vermeer exists. You can also see artists in various fields of art, such as artists and art dealers, and art-related artisans, who have been affected.

Maps, engravings, drawings, books, biographical documents, and other archival material paint a picture of the bustling city in the 17th century.

Delft porcelain from Vermeer’s paintings, tablecloths, rugs and mirrors from Ottoland, Turkey, are also on display.


The display is also well thought out

17th century map of Delft. The population at the time was about 25,000.


Little has changed in the current Delft old town and layout

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