Vermeer’s ghost

April 16th, 2013

It is true, Vermeer had virtually no impact on his contemporaries and negligent impact (actually none) on the course of art after his death. None of his children were moved to carry on his profession and it is doubtful that he even had a single apprentice although he was well known within the environs of Delft during his lifetime.  Contemporary Dutch paintings that plainly show signs of his manner are fewer than twenty and most of them were produced by moderately-talented, provincial painters known only to well-informed Dutch art historians (e.g. Jacobus Vrel or Cornelis de Man). Michael van Musscher—an enterprising fellow who was able to recycle just about any motif he set his eyes on—did a relaxed remake of Vermeer’s solemn Art of Painting, hardly an event which drives forward the course of art. The more talented Gabriel Metsu painted two works that are clearly inspired by Vermeer, but it wasn’t much of a love affair: Metsu’s career is largely based on skilful makeovers of his contemporaries.

Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864 –1916),  Ida in an Interior with Piano, (1901)

Although Vermeer’s name has been continually associated with the values of modernism, there are exceeding few 19th- or 20th-century artworks that are recognizably inspired by the Delft master, except for forgeries which instead, abound.   Perhaps, Vermeer’s only legacy in modern times in the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864 –1916) whose Ida in an Interior with Piano, (1901) will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s on 23 May 2013.

Estimated price: £1,000,000-1,500,000.

Personally, Hammershøi is not my cup of tea. More than Vermeer emulations, his melancholic, bourgeoisie interiors seem  to be a modest prelude to the solitude of Edward Hopper’s offices and cinemas. Is £1,000,000 for a Hammershøi  sane? For some reason that escapes me, it is in this market.

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