Archive for September, 2009

Will the real Procuress please stand up?

September 29th, 2009

This week in an article by Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper will reveal how a painting that supposedly was made by Hans van Meegeren, one of the most successful forgers of all time,  is now believed to have been painted in the 17th century.

The work in question, The Procuress, has been housed at the Courtauld Institute in London since 1960 when it given as a donation from Professor Geoffrey Webb, a specialist in historic architecture. Webb had no illusions concerning its authorship; he believed that it was a forgery by Van Meegeren recovered after the War in Van Meegeren’s chalet in Nice. Scientific examination at the Courtauld confirms that the picture could date from the 17th-century since the canvas is old but more significantly, there is no evidence that any modern pigment was used.

Two other versions of  The Procuress already are present in public museums. The first is owned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which, however, lists it as a copy. Another emerged in 1949 from an English private collection and was auctioned at Christie’s before being bought by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Scholars now believed this one to be the original by Dirck van Baburen.

This bit of news may be relevant to Vermeer studies since it is well known that Vermeer included just such a procuress motif  in the background of two of his compositions, The Concert and the Lady Seated at the Virginals. Baburen’s Procuress, or a copy of the original, probably corresponds to one in the 1641 inventory of Vermeer’s mother-in-law, Maria Thins, described as “a painting wherein a procuress points to the hand.”

Milkmaid video

September 26th, 2009

Vermeer Impressions

September 11th, 2009

Have you seen Vermeer Milkmaid at the MET? Then why not share your impressions, thoughts, questions and comments  here?

Awake New York!

September 10th, 2009

Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid
September 10, 2009–November 29, 2009

Not that I vilify large-scale art exhibitions, but small, though-out exhibitions with a sharp focus generally stick more with me. So when the MET announced that Vermeer’s Milkmaid would be the central piece of a special exhibition, I knew luck found me. Chance has it I will be in NY during the Milkmaid’s New York sojourn having already made plans to attend an opening of a show of my watercolors in a Manhattan gallery.

Along with the Milkmaid, five Vermeers of the MET permanent collection will be on display plus a few keys works to help clarify the exhibition’s point (three more are housed at the Frick a few blocks away). Anyone affected by Vermeer and who lives within a reasonable distance will not pass up this opportunity.

Museum goers will be in good hands: the exhibition is curated by Walter Liedtke who, as few,  has channeled so much productive energy into making sense of Vermeer’s 36 extant works and bits and scraps of historical information. Accompanying the show is a booklet (by Liedtke) which takes a rather original look at a remarkable picture.

Liedtke also discusses the artist’s unique patronage and its influence on the artistic and psychological aesthetic of the Milkmaid and other works by Vermeer on a MET  podcast.

Visitors’ comments are very welcomed.

See my interactive study of the Milkmaid here.

The Czernins want “their” Vermeer back

September 8th, 2009

The heirs of the prominent Czernin family want the Austrian government to return Vermeer’s Art of Painting which they say was sold by force to Adolf Hitler in 1940, a newspaper said Saturday. Allegedly, Count Jaromir Czernin sold Vermeer’s masterpiece to the Nazi dictator “to protect the life of his family,”  his descendants’ attorney told Der Standard. The painting is housed at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum since 1946.

“We are convinced that the Austrian republic will treat this case in an open and honest manner,” said the family attorney adding that he had filed the request on August 31. The culture ministry confirmed Saturday that it had received Theiss’s request and would transmit it to a committee tasked with issuing opinions on restitutions. The family had already asked for the painting to be returned in the 1960s, but their requests were rejected on the basis that it had been sold voluntarily and at an appropriate price.

Hitler had expressed interest in acquiring the painting as early as 1935 to put it in the Fuehrer Museum which he planned to build in the Austrian city of Linz. During the winter of 1943/1944 Hitler transferred the painting to safety in the tunnels of the salt mines Altaussee. Special service units of the American Army retrieved the Art of Painting and other works of art from the tunnels in spring 1945.

For a detailed write-up about the afterlife of Vermeer’s Art of Painting, see the Washington National Gallery special feature.