Archive for January, 2010

To whom it may concern

January 10th, 2010

My Essential Vermeer website gets a pretty lot of traffic, naturally, considering it is dedicated to a single fine artist. It is sobering, but not altogether surprising, to know that any second-tier Hollywood actress, NBA player or recent video game generates infinitely more web traffic than Vermeer, Rembrandt  and  Leonardo da Vinci combined.

To whom it may concern, below is a breakdown of all 37 paintings by Vermeer with the number of page views during December, a slow month. I doubt you could call it a popularity contest in the strictest sense; many people come to study the paintings they need to understand rather than the ones they love.

However, most works are there where I would have expected.  Girl with a Pearl Earring has simply had too much good press not to be number one. The Milkmaid, as it has done for more than 300 years, marvels anyone who has ever seen it whether one knows it is a Vermeer or not.  The Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window comes in a comfortable third perhaps more for its captivating  image than for the way it is painted. Odd I would say, is the appearance of the Frick Mistress and Maid near the top. Vermeer specialists rarely cast more than a sidelong glance at it because, perhaps, from an iconographical standpoint, there is not a real lot to talk about.

Frankly, I am a bit surprised that the mesmerizing Woman in Blue Reading a Letter and iconic Little Street are stuck midway down the list. As expected, the two London virginal pictures, much fussed over by critics, lack popular appeal. The Lacemaker, once the artist’s most recognizable image, has fallen from the collective conscience down to 26. Even the newly attributed  and still unfamiliar A Young Woman Seated at the Virginal , now in a New York Private collection, places a bit higher.

I dutifully accept popular verdict  except for the Woman with a Lute, almost last. While I admit the canvas seriously lacks nuance (due its near disastrous state of conservation), it nonetheless overwhelms me every I have the privilege of seeing it again. I find the unspeakable delicacy of the lute player  ever more touching each time I find her still tucked away, even pampered, within  one of Vermeer’s boldest compositions.

  1. Girl with a Pearl Earring  – 3,892
  2. The Milkmaid – 2,481
  3. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window  –  2,058
  4. Girl with a Wine Glass – 1,623
  5. Mistress and Maid – 1,589
  6. Woman with a Pearl Necklace – 1,524
  7. The Astronomer – 1,513
  8. Woman with a Water Pitcher – 1,477
  9. The Lover Letter – 1,473
  10. A Lady Writing – 1,465
  11. The Art of Painting – 1,459
  12. The Geographer – 1,410
  13. The Concert – 1,377
  14. View of Delft – 1,331
  15. Officer and Laughing Girl – 1,326
  16. St Praxedis – 1,316
  17. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter – 1,301
  18. The Procuress – 1,276
  19. The Little Street – 1,253
  20. Girl with a Red Hat – 1,181
  21. The Music Lesson  – 1,172
  22. Diana and her Companions  – 1,158
  23. A Young Woman Seated at the Virginal – 1,131
  24. Girl Interrupted in her Music – 1,131
  25. Woman Holding a Balance – 1,121
  26. The Lacemaker – 1,041
  27. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary – 1,015
  28. Allegory of Faith – 960
  29. Lady Wring a Letter with her Maid – 958
  30. Guitar Player – 955
  31. Maid Asleep – 924
  32. A Lady Standing at the Virginals – 890
  33. A Lady Seated at the Virginals – 918
  34. Study of a Young Woman – 913
  35. Woman with a Lute  – 832
  36. Girl with a Flute – 798
  37. The Glass of Wine – 788

The current state of the Art of Painting

January 5th, 2010

Following the claims (September 2008)  of the heirs of Jaromir Czernin concerning the ownership of  The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, the Kunsthistorische Museum of Vienna has launched a web page to inform those interested in the current state of discussion. Here is the link:


Get background information at the NGA study, The Art of Painting: The Painting’s Afterlife

Get a review of current events at Restitution And Remorse by Natascha Eichinger on the Vienna Review.

Salvador Dali & Vermeer’s Lacemaker

January 2nd, 2010

One of Dalí goals was to “rescue” modern painting.  His figurative mode and obsessive extolling of the Old Masters not only incited fellow Surrealists against him in the 1930s, but also later situated him in a diametric opposition to the avant-garde’s penchant towards abstraction.

Throughout art history, artists had incessantly attempted to grasp form and to reduce it to elementary geometrical volumes. Leonardo always tended to produce eggs Ingres preferred spheres, and Cézanne cubes and cylinders. Dalí claimed that all curved surfaces of the human body have the same geometric spot in common, the one found in this cone with the rounded tip curved toward heaven or toward the earth the rhinoceros horn. After this initial discovery, Dalí surveyed his own images and realized that all of them could be deconstructed to rhinoceros horns.

Dalí also discovered what he termed “latent rhinocerisation” in the works of the Great Masters.  The Lacemaker is a rhinoceros horn (or an assemblage of horns), and the rhinoceros’ actual horn is, in fact, a Lacemaker. The painting triumphs over the living rhinoceros because it is entirely comprised of these animated, spiritualized horns, whereas the rhinoceros wields only the single diminutive horn/Lacemaker on its nose.”

Dalí explained, “Up till now, The Lacemaker has always been considered a very peaceful, very calm painting, but for me, it is possessed by the most violent aesthetic power, to which only the recently discovered antiproton can be compared.”

A copy of  The Lacemaker had hung on the wall of his father’s study and had obsessed Dalí for a number of years. In 1955, he asked permission to enter the Louvre with his paints and canvas to execute a copy of Vermeer’s miniscule masterpiecer.

Rembrandt finds home in Las Vegas

January 1st, 2010

It is said that the mystery telephone bidder who paid a record $33m (£20m) for a Rembrandt at Christie’s in London is Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino owner.

Vermeer enthusiasts will remember that Wynn has distinguished himself through the years as a powerful art collector and acquired the tiny Young Woman Seated at a Virginal. It has been reported that Wynn later sold it (for unknown reasons) to a New York art collector for the same price he initially paid.

The Rembrandt in question is a Portrait of a Man, Half-Length, with His Arms Akimbo, painted in 1658. One New York dealer  balked at the purchase due to lack of technical clarity  in the face. “It was definitely a gamble,” he said. Let’s remember that gambling is Wynn’s specialty.

Although Wynn remains somewhat reticent about discussing his art dealings his high public profile is assured by his enormously successful casinos and resorts in the Las Vegas including the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Encore where  much of which hangs. His collection includes works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Manet, Matisse, Turner and Picasso.