Welcome home Mr. Vermeer

April 22nd, 2013

In December 2003, the main building of the Rijksmuseum was closed for a major renovation based on a design by Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz. Many of the old interior decorations were restored and the floors in the courtyards were removed. On 13 April 2013, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix.

During the ten year restoration, many of the musuem’s artworks were stored away, a few were kept on display but some (all four Vermeers)  were shipped all over the globe.

Vermeer’s Milkmaid made only one trip, to New York. The Little Street saw Tokyo and Rome. The Woman in Blue Reading a Letter saw Kyoto, Sendai, Tokyo, Shanghai, São Paulo and Los Angles. The smallish Love Letter, perhaps Vermeer’s least appreciated work for the general public, was shipped to Dublin, Greenwich (Connecticut), Frankfurt, Melbourne, Rome, Vancouver, Paris, Doha, St Petersburg and Istanbul.

No one really complained about this state of affairs: there, was after all, except for the paintings’ safety, less to be gained by keeping the paintings put in Amsterdam. On the other hand, from what one might imagine, millions of tickets, Vermeer posters, postcards, mugs, umbrellas, pencils, scarfs, notepads and refrigerator magnets were sold all around the world. Miles, tickets and heads can all be counted: what benefit all this brought to the millions who saw the paintings for a few moments is anybody’s guess.

In any case, welcome back to Amsterdam, Mr. Vermeer.

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