Vermeer on exhibit in Philadelphia

November 18th, 2013
rolin-face

Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Philadelphia Museum of Art
October 26, 2013 – March 2014
curator:
Christopher Atkins, Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture
location:
Gallery 264, second floor

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will exhibit the Young Woman Seated at a Virginal until March on loan from the private Leiden Collection. Since the work, the only private collector other than the Queen to possess a painting by Vermeer, was acquired by it present owner, it has become a veritable globe trotter being shown. The list below traces the painting’s traverses from its discover to today. Only during the last decade, since the picture was brought back into contact with the scholarly community, has it been examined seriously. Now, after more than 10 years of extensive research by a team of leading scholars, the painting has now been proposed as a secure addition to Vermeer’s limited oeuvre.

  • The Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is presumable painted by Vermeer, c. 1670.
  • The picture is documented for the first time in 1904, when it was published in the preliminary catalogue by Wilhelm von Bode of the collection of Alfred Beit, a South African-born diamond magnate who rivaled the great early 20th-century art acquisitions of Americans such as Frick and Mellon.
  • Before and during the World War II, it is unanimously recognized by scholars, including Hofstede de Groot, Ary de Vries, Eduard Plietzsch and Ludwig Goldscheider.
  • Following the dramatic Van Meegeren affair of Vermeer forgeries, De Vries, the Director of the Rijksmuseum and leading Vermeer scholar, expresses doubts about the authenticity of the picture published in 1948. De Vries changes his mind, in favor of the painting, and writes several letters saying that if his book were to go into a third edition he would rehabilitate the picture.
  • When Beit dies, the picture passes to his brother, Otto Beit, and then to the latter’s son, Sir Alfred Beit, who eventually, in 1960, places the picture on consignment with a London dealer.
  • Baron Frédéric Rolin of Brussels, an occasional collector of Old Masters and dealer in tribal art, sees it and falls immediately in love with. Aware of the doubtful attribution to Vermeer, he acquires it in exchange four works from his collection, paintings by Klee, Signac, Bonnard and Riopelle.
  • Lawrence Gowing (1970) and Christopher Wright (1976) continue to accept it, but others remain skeptical.
  • In 1993, the auction house Sotheby’s is approached by Baron Rolin, with a request to undertake new research on the painting.
  • A complete scientific study is begun in 1995 by Libby Sheldon of University College London, in collaboration with her colleague Catherine Hassall, and in 1997 Nicola Costaras of the Victoria and Albert Museum joins this team. The investigation demonstrates that the picture os unquestionably 17th-century in origin and also that its technical composition is consistent with Vermeer’s known working methods. In particular, the composition of the ground layers is found to be entirely comparable with other works by the artist, and the pigments used were also appropriate.
  • Rolin dies in 2002, and the painting is offered for sale by his heirs.
  • On July 7, 2004, Sotheby’s auctions the painting to an unknown bidder for $30 million, many times more than the London auction house’s estimate of $5.4 million.
  • Two days later, the British art critic Brian Sewell rejected the painting peremptorily in a scathing article describing it as “so damaged and abraded that only modern restoration makes it fit to see” and that the picture will join the many twentieth-century “false attributions and downright forgeries enthusiastically attested by the experts of the day as an object of derision—£16.2 million is monumental proof of folly, not authenticity.”
  • The painting is shown briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (11 August 2004 – 1 March 2005).
  • The buyer finally turns out to be the number-one suspect, Steve Wynn, the immensely rich (as of March 2012, Wynn is the 491st richest man in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion) Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector.
  • The painting disappears in Wynn’s main office.
  • In 2008, the maverick art historian Benjamin Binstock declared that the Rolin work, along with other five Vermeers, had been painted by Maria Vermeer, the artist’s daughter and “secret apprentice.” Binstock bases his maverick hypothesis on perceived inconsistencies in technique, materials, artistic level of the Rolin and other six works, and on a systematic account of Vermeer’s family members as models.
  • In the same year, 2008, Walter Liedtke formally enlisted the Rolin picture as Vermeer’s 36th work in a complete catalogue of the artist’s paintings. The savvy Vermeer expert begins the catalogue essay stating that there exist “compelling reasons to accept this small picture as a late work by Vermeer.”
  • It is exhibited in Tokyo along with other 6 other Vermeer’s from August 2 – December 14, 2008 (190-192, no. 31 and ill).
  • On October 26, 2008, Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the painting is sold by Wynn to an unknown buyer for $30 million.
  • The buyer is identified as a New York art collector and dealer in Dutch art.
  • The painting raises its head on Dec. 29, 2009, in Gallery 14A in the European paintings galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, It is labeled as from a “Private Collection” and is on view until June.
  • It is shown a in Norfolk, Virginia 1 June 2010 – 1 January, 2011 at the Chrysler Museum of Art.
  • It is shown in Cambridge, England, 5 October, 2011 – 15 January, 2012, at the Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum (no. 28 and ill.).
  • It is shown in Rome, 27 September, 2012 – 20 January, 2013at the Vermeer. Il secolo d’oro dell’arte olandese at the Scuderie del Quirinale. (220, no. 51 and ill.).
  • It is shown in London, 26 June “8 September, 2013, at theVermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age exhibition.

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