Posts Tagged ‘Woman Holding a Balance’

Woman Holding a Balance headed to Germany

January 8th, 2011

Vermeer in Munich: King Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a Collector of Old Masters
17 March–19 June 2011 – curator: Dr. Marcus Dekiert
Alte Pinakothek
Barer Strasse 27
D-80799 Munich

from the museum website:

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first king of Bavaria, Max I Joseph (1756–1825), amassed a private art collection of the highest quality. He focused almost exclusively on 17th-century Dutch masters, mostly landscapes and genre paintings. To these he added the works of contemporary painters in Munich who were inspired by such Old Masters. In December 1826, the private royal collection was sold at auction. Some exceptional works were acquired for the state collections; others found their way to the Alte Pinakothek via roundabout routes – as part of Ludwig I’s collection, for example; many are now scattered far afield. From today’s point of view, the greatest loss is a masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer: Woman Holding a Balance of 1664. This exquisite work is returning to Munich from the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a threemonth period. Surrounded by other exceptional paintings from the “Golden Age” – including works by Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem van de Velde the Younger and Philips Wouwerman – it gives visitors the opportunity to discover Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a collector of Old Masters.

A not-very-special special and a digital gem

March 20th, 2009

The Rijksmuseum has developed a webspecial to flank their temporary exhibition of Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance normally housed at the NGA.  It briefly investigates 3 aspects of Vermeer’s painting with comparative details of the Milkmaid (Rijksmuseum), Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (Rijksmuseum) and the Woman Holding a Balance (NGA). This special is nothing special, mind you, even though it might  interest those who tip their  toes into the water for the first time.

Lest one be disappointed at a missed chance (the code and text of the project must not have required more than a few hours to put together) visitors should remember that the Rijksmuseum offers a great deal when compared with other museums which house Vermeer paintings, especially, if you know where to dig. The quality digital scans of the museums’s holdings plus the depth of collection information can be daunting. Compare for example, the digital scans of the two Vermeers in the London National Gallery which cannot be downloaded by the viewer and bear unsightly watermarks capable of souring even the staunchest Vermeer devotee.

No doubt, the best part of this special are the downloadable images readily accessible on the press release page. In particular, the hi-resolution image Woman Holding a Balance is so accurate in color and exposition that it easily betters any printed image I have ever seen, a digital gem of sorts. The shot of the exhibition installation with the Milkmaid, Woman Holding a Balance and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter is moving (see  image above photo: Jeroen Swolfs) if one recalls the time the Milkmaid and Woman Holding a Balance were hung together in Amsterdam in 1696 (see the post on the exhibition below).

Following the Rijksmuseum’s policy, the downloads are free for everyone and require no sworn oaths or bureaucratic sign-ups. Their heart is in the right place.


press release and images of the paintings on display:

Woman Holding a Balance travels to the Rijksmuseum

February 23rd, 2009

Woman Holding a Balance
11 March to 1 June 2009
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Vermeer’s Milkmaid and Woman Holding a Balance will be temporarily reunited in Amsterdam after 300 years. Vermeer devotees will recall that these two paintings were auctioned off there to the same buyer at the Dissius sale of 21 Vermeer paintings in 1696, 21 years after the artist had died.

Both works achieved handsome sums, 175 and 155 guilders respectively, inferior only to the much larger View of Delft at 200. Let’s remember that the average Dutch worker’s wage was something like 500 to 700 guilders per year.

The man who was willing to pay the price, Isaac Roooleuw, a Mennonite merchant, clearly knew what he was getting. He was a painter. However, Roooleuw enjoyed them very little since five years later he was forced to sell them by foreclosure, each to a different buyer.

Although these works are divergent in theme and technique and were made years apart, I can’t think of a more revealing couple in all of Vermeer’s oeuvre. The Milkmaid is the personification of earthly sunlight. The Woman Holding a Balance, on the other hand, possesses a moon-like splendor that when observed directly, eclipses even it own complicated allegorical structure. The viewer has the sensation that it is possible to physically penetrate the space of picture’s crystal-clear penumbra had it not been for the sacral figure of the young woman who waits for her scales to  balance.

I do hope that they will be displayed in close proximity.