New high-resolution image of Vermeer’s recently restored Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

October 19th, 2011

CLICK HERE  to access high resolution image

The Rijksmuseum has updated their hi-res image of the Woman in Blue Reading a Letter after its recent restoration. At first sight it looks a bit disjointed as pictures always do after restoration. The whole much cooler in hue now the long winding scarf-like piece of cloth on the table, once fairly muddled, can be made out a bit better recalling a similar scarf-like object that drapes down in the Art of Painting. The figure has gained much force and now stands out of the picture more than it did before the dark, yellow varnish was removed. The painting now appears to have greater spatial resonance and sense of volume.

Some color can be made out in the map as well as a few topographical features which had been overpainted. A row of discreet brass buttons with tiny highlights now run along the side of the foreground chair which had been completely obscured by retouches.

11 Responses to “New high-resolution image of Vermeer’s recently restored Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

  1. Inga-Stina Westman

    Did you know that this year´s Nobel Prize winner of literature Tomas Tranströmer wrote a poem about this painting? It is simply called “Vermeer”.

  2. Jonathan Janson

    No, I didn’t know but thank your very, very much for having brought it to my attention. I will do a post on it soon. Thanks again, Jonathan

  3. Maaike Dirkx

    Out of interest: could you tell me at what other times this painting was restored before this recent restoration? I notice the string of pearls on top of the table has gone now (save for a very faint reflection); was that considered to be an overpainting? I wish the Rijksmuseum would post a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture so as better to be able to see what has been achieved. However, there is no mention on their website about the restoration at all since its completion.
    Many thanks.

  4. Jonathan Janson

    Maaike, Thanks for the observation. It looks to me that you are right: the original 4 top peals were more defined. They are fainter now and one of the highlights is completely missing. You are also right that Rijksmuseum has not given any news on the restoration. It was immediately after sent to Japan. I have heard that when it returns to Amsterdam in March they will publish a booklet about the conservation. Perhaps then the “missing” pearls will be explained.

  5. Maaike Dirkx

    Thank you Jonathan. I have been trying to compare “before” and “after” photographs but it is difficult given the difference in quality between photos. In some, the lights are over-exposed and the blacks are blocked out. What is clear, at least to me, in that the “after” high resolution photograph shows removal of detail on the blue jacket which, rather than enhancing the three-dimensional quality of the painting, reduces it. But that is based on photographs, obviously I would have to see the painting in person. On the whole, I regret the tendency of museums these days to strive to “brighten” paintings saying that this will increase their “readibility”. I find that this is not always so.

  6. Jonathan Janson

    Maaike, I have got the best museum quality images of the painting in circulation that will give you a better comparison. Shall I send them to your email address? Maybe you already have then. There seems to be not stopping restorations. But frankly, I don’t fear much there:, it is the constant travel that Vermeer paintings are obligated to for temporary exhibitions that can be fairly dangerous. Sooner or later, something is going to go wrong.

  7. Maaike Dirkx

    Jonathan, I may have those photographs, but I would be very grateful if you could send them anyway; so far the only photographs I have extracted are from the Museum website and there will always be distortions.
    Indeed the constant travel is of great concern to me too. Currently, the “Love letter” is in Istanbul; the “Girl with the Pearl Earring” will be travelling to the US and so on. I only see an increase in this trend, no matter what opposition their may be (I don’t know if you were aware of the Polish lobby agains Leonardo’s “Lady with an Ermine” travelling to London – they were unable to stop this).
    Again, many thanks!

  8. Dee Tustin

    Hello all, I have an oil painting of this , well what I think is an oil painting I have no expertise on paintings, but when hunting around my home I came across it, I think it is oil on board / wood , a small painting, framed and on the back of the frame it is written, ‘Johannes Vermeer – Delft 1632 – 1675 Young Woman reading a letter – Rijksmuseum, and then underneath that it is marked ‘Meer’ but this has what looks like a capital ‘I’ above the M, also underneath this is what looks like a clipping rather tatty titled ‘YOUNG WOMAN READING A LETTER stating info. of the painting including dates and also mentions something about ‘Steelink’ could anyone tell me more about this painting I have. Many thanks.

  9. Vera Almeida

    Jonathan, this painting, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter”, is now here, in São Paulo, Brazil, in a temporary exhibition. It came from Tokyo and can be seen in the MASP (Sao Paulo Museum) from December,12 to February, 10:

    The site tracking said that it is still in Japan.
    I´m going there now.


  10. Ruthie

    Vermeer is such an amazing artist and I’m so glad there’s a website like EV to celebrate him. I’m very very young to be studying the artist. I have a poster of girl with a pearl earing in my bedroom. The reason I like Johannes so much is because One, he is in a category of his own and is so much different than other artists, and Two, his paintings make all of us think.

    Ruthie- Young Vermeer Lover

  11. Ruthie

    This is such a beautiful painting and the high res. image really makes looking at it even more magical. I like how it displays each detail of the artwork.

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