Posts Tagged ‘Young Lady Seated at a Virginal’

When getting it right is too easy

September 7th, 2013

One of the pleasures of being a painter is being able (more or less) to copy paintings you love or are interested in. Since I had seven Vermeers (by my count five and a half) at a 35-minute walk from my home here in Rome last year (and free entrance), I took some time off and made three copies: the NG Lady Standing Lady at the Virginals, the NGA The Girl with a Red Hat and the newly attributed Young Woman at the Virginal (New York private collection).

my-rolin

The London experience was dreadful. Although I cheated by projecting the drawing onto the canvas, had a state-of-the-art digital image of the Lady Standing Lady at the Virginals on my studio monitor and could check my progress by viewing at the original any time I wished, things went wrong. The make-or-break tonal values broke down. The contours looked weary, the modeling exhausted and even the local colors, which in theory should be approachable, were off key. Yes, time does things to paintings that no painter can do, but after 40+ years at the easel, I though I could do better.

The Girl with a Red Hat went better—in the beginning. I got the hat glazed properly and was foolish enough to take a deep breath and whack in the background all at once, spontaneously, as it should be done. Not bad. Obviously, I postponed doing the face for as long possible knowing it is one of Vermeer’s most finessed. But when I finally threw caution to the wind and attempted to approximate the play of silvery greens and pinks that make the lady glow, I got something like a face made with dark and light mud.

Last try, the New York picture: a work I do not admire and really don’t want a copy of. But since I am doing a lengthy analysis on the miniscule painting, I decided it would be a good idea to walk in Vermeer’s shoes to see what might have caused him (or whoever made it) to paint such an unsual work. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any surprises. Things went as expected. The grays were straightforward grays, the yellow was yellow and the uniformly non-descript brown shadows were very nondescript. Contours were easy (evenly sharp, the easiest to do) and the tonal values were hardly challenging. Yes, my background gray is a bit too light (maybe that’s better), the cheeks did not come out pink enough and I couldn’t bring myself to make the shadows of the face as dark as the original’s, but the painting presented no technical nuance that was substantially not within the reach of my modest talents. These are shoes I can wear.

Now that I have three Vermeers for myself, I’ll keep two turned to the wall for the moment and one framed, but hung somewhere in my house where I won’t see it too much.

New Hi-Res Vermeer Images

August 2nd, 2013
detail of Johannes Vermeer's Music Lesson

After a long vacation from Italy and my computer (I never vacation from Vermeer), there is lots of catching up to do. Here’s a start for digital image fans.

In conjunction with the current Vermeer exhibition Vermeer & Music: The Art of Love & Leisure, the National Gallery has published super hi-res images of the 4 authentic Vermeers which you can access by clicking here. The Lady Standing at the Virginal, the Lady Standing at the Virginal and the Guitar Player are somewhat larger than those already on the gallery’s website but the Music Lesson is by far the best digital image of the picture now publicly available (Google’s scan of the picture is downright horrible). Also included are x-ray images of the NG works. All the images are exceptionally detailed but decidedly low in contrast. If you know the pictures well, I would imagine that a little bit of contrasting in image editor will do the trick.

In any case, the IIPMooViewer is acceptably responsive but I still prefer to have the whole image on my hard disk. This requires scores and scores of screen capturing, pasting to Photoshop and aligning (nerve-racking) and, obviously, an endless reserve of patience. If any kind soul out there knows how to sidestep this gargantuan task and download the whole images, don’t hesitate to let us all know.

Vermeer Lectures in Cambridge for Vermeer’s Women exhibition

October 16th, 2011

The Fitzwilliman Museum offers  a series of free public lectures to accompany the exquisite exhibition that features four Vermeer paintings including the masterful Music Lesson (rarely on public display) and the Louvre Lacemaker.

All talks are on Friday, 13:15 – 14:00

28 October-2011
Love for sale in the 17th century: Secrets of the oldest profession.
Colin Wiggins, The National Gallery

18 Novermber-2011
The Rediscovery of Vermeer and the reception of genre painting.
Dr Merideth Hale, History of Art Deprartment, University of Cambridge

Vermeer’s Women exhibition catalogue

October 15th, 2011

Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence
by Marjorie E. Wieseman, Mr. Wayne Franits & H. Perry Chapman
2011
224 pages, Yale University Press

product description from Amazon.com:

Focusing on the extraordinary Lacemaker from the Musée du Louvre, this beautiful book investigates the subtle and enigmatic paintings by Johannes Vermeer that celebrate the intimacy of the Dutch household. Moments frozen in paint that reveal young women sewing, reading or playing musical instruments, captured in Vermeer’s uniquely luminous style, recreate a silent and often mysterious domestic realm, closed to the outside world, and inhabited almost exclusively by women and children.

Three internationally recognized experts in the field explain why women engaged in mundane domestic tasks, or in pleasurable pastimes such as music making, writing letters, or adjusting their toilette, comprise some of the most popular Dutch paintings of the seventeenth century. Among the most intriguing of these compositions are those that consciously avoid any engagement with the viewer. Rather than acknowledging our presence, figures avert their gazes or turn their backs upon us; they stare moodily into space or focus intently on the activities at hand. In viewing these paintings, we have the impression that we have stumbled upon a private world kept hidden from casual regard.

The ravishingly beautiful paintings of Vermeer are perhaps the most poetic evocations of this secretive world, but other Dutch painters sought to imbue simple domestic scenes with an air of silent mystery, and the book also features works by some of the most important masters of 17th-century Dutch genre painting, among them Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Nicolaes Maes, and Jan Steen.

New National Gallery website re-make

June 28th, 2009
nationalgallery

After years of stagnation, the London National Gallery has updated its internet presence.

For Vermeer enthusiasts, the re-do offers an improved zoom feature of both the Lady Seated at the Virginals and the Lady Standing at the Virginals, two late works which can be easily overlooked by newcomers.

Other than the restrained graphic re-make, someone at the National Gallery put his hand on his heart and eliminated the hideous watermarks which once “graced” these previous zoom features. If you are partial to detail (like myself) or a painter (like myself), these images provide both food for the eye and mind.

Although politics evidently constrain the gallery staff to aim their sites on the “lower” tier of museum goers (“Plan your visit here,” “Take part as a family,” “Subscribe to out Podcast link” links strategically infest the site), the textual information sorely disappoints. Do not the two ladies merit more than five bland paragraphs? Frankly, my 10-year web experience has taught me to never underestimate the inquisitiveness or intellect of the those who wish to warm up to the masterpieces for the first time. Both of these unobtrusive Vermeers have some pretty compelling stories to tell if one willing to scratch under the surface a bit.