Vermeer As You’ve Never Seen Before at the Rijksmuseum
min Read2 March 2023
This year we have a chance to witness the largest Vermeer exhibition to ever be held. From 10 February to 4 June 2023, the Rijksmuseum is presenting a retrospective dedicated to Johannes Vermeer, one of the most famous painters in the Netherlands. If you’re an art historian, or simply an art lover, this show should be on your must-see list for 2023. Read on to find out why this show is so unique!
The last monographic exhibition on Vermeer was held 30 years ago in Washington, DC, and in The Hague. This year, the Rijksmuseum will introduce this mysterious painter to new generations in a show encompassing Vermeer’s most prominent paintings from all around the world in order to help us understand the artist’s technique, considerations, and decisions.
See the Masterpieces in Person
Johannes Vermeer was born in October 1632 into a modest middle-class family in Delft where he lived and worked for his entire life. In contrast to another famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn, Vermeer most likely left behind a small oeuvre of 45 to 50 paintings, 37 of which are officially attributed to him by experts. The 2023 show will bring together a total of 28 attributed paintings; among them are The Girl with a Pearl Earring (Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands), Woman Holding a Balance (The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA), and the newly restored Girl Reading a Letter at the Open Window (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany).
Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1664−1667, Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1662−1664, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Museum’s website.
Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, c. 1657–1658, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Here you can see a list of all Vermeer works presented in the exhibition.
In the run-up to the exhibition, a team of conservators, restorers, and scientists from the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis have been doing extensive research into Vermeer’s painting technique, revealing the artist’s manner of work layer by layer. The techniques used for this investigation include advanced Macro-XRF and RIS scanning.
In September 2022, the Rijksmuseum revealed new details found in the composition of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. In the new images provided by the museum, we can see several household objects, such as a jug holder on the wall behind the milkmaid and a fire basket (vuurkorf) or a cradle located in the lower right corner of the painting.
Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c. 1660. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Short wavelength infrared reflectance image of The Milkmaid (false color), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Museum’s website.
Detail of the short wavelength infrared reflectance image of The Milkmaid with the jug holder clearly visible. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Museum’s website.
If you’re unable to visit the exhibition in person, do not worry! Rijksmuseum prepared a special digital experience Closer to Vermeer that will bring you closer to the 17th-century Dutch master and the smallest details of his works. The interactive journey is available now in English (narrated by Stephen Fry) and in Dutch (narrated by Joy Delima).
With this digital experience, you will be able to zoom in on Vermeer’s most famous paintings at a resolution of 5 micrometers and view the minutest particles of pigment in ultra-sharp detail!
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