Vermeer, globe trotter or spaceman?

December 8th, 2008

If my math skills are not as bad as I suspect, within two years 13 canvases by the Vermeer will have collectively travelled no less than 98,179 miles (see the post below with a list of travelling paintings and their destinations). To give you a more tangible idea of the distance involved, the circumference of the earth is 24,902 miles. Don’t forget, 98,179 miles is nearly half way to the moon.

On the other hand, the longest documented trip made by the artist was Delft-Amsterdam. That’s 66 miles round trip, as the crow flies.

One Response to “Vermeer, globe trotter or spaceman?”

  1. ARech

    It is not unusual that Vermeer, apart from his trip to Amsterdam to examine a collection of ‘outstanding’ Italian paintings, ordered by the Elector of Brandenburg, stayed in his beloved hometown Delft. (Besides, he traveled in 1674 to Gouda to settle the estate of his late father-in-law Reynier Bolnes, and in 1675 once more to Amsterdam to borrow 1,000 guilders. Furthermore, some Vermeer-experts suppose that he completed his apprenticeship not in Delft but perhaps in Utrecht or elsewhere. This all would add a number of miles to his travelling account).

    Several of his renowned painter colleagues, like Frans van Mieris (Leiden), Gerard Dou (Leiden) or Adriaen van Ostade (Haarlem) did the same and never left their hometown. Even the great Rembrandt moved only from Leiden to Amsterdam.

    Travelling in that times was rather troublesome, uncomfortable, time consuming and frequently dangerous. So globe-trotting ‘just for fun’ or as a kind of ‘educational tour’ as it became popular for young noblemen in the 18th and even 19th century was not a custom in Vermeer’s time.

    Furthermore it was nearly impossible for Vermeer to move with c. a dozen of children and leaving a mother-in-law whose support contributed essentially to the family’s living. And why leaving a so beloved hometown, clearly evident in Vermeer’s unsurpassed ‘View of Delft’ for an uncertain future say in Amsterdam? I am sure he wouldn’t have felt well – at home – there.

    What is far more serious is the horribly large number of travelling distances Vermeer’s paintings have to absolve within only two years, which means nothing but stress and danger to those highly fragile objects of c. 350 years age (see also my comment to ‘Risks’, 19th Nov. 2008).

    Unfortunately, some museums tend to see in their art objects rather mere objects of trade like fruits than invaluable and irretrievable elements of our cultural heritage for which museums directors and curators bear full responsibility. The more than lightheaded lending policy of the Louve (read the entire statement of Didier Rykner, ‘The Louvre without Vermeer’ in ‘The Art Tribune’)
    lacks this responsibility completely. What must happen until the officials realize what they are doing for mere money-making? A further stolen Vermeer?? We all can only hope that it won’t come to the worst. The recently stolen Van Mieris (2007 in Sydney, Australia)
    should serve at least as a serious warning!


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