Organized in partnership with the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the exhibition will present Vermeer’s great masterpieces and those of his contemporaries.
“The Sphinx of Delft”: coined by French journalist and art critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger when he revealed Vermeer to the world late in the 19th century, this famous expression has served mainly to promote an enigmatic image of the painter. The myth of the solitary genius has done the rest. Yet Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) did not attain his level of creative mastery in isolation from the art of his time.
Through comparisons with the works of other artists of the Golden Age—among them Gerrit Dou, Gerard ter Borch, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Caspar Netscher, and Frans van Mieris—the exhibition brings to light Vermeer’s membership of a network of painters specializing in the depiction of everyday life while admiring, inspiring, and vying with each other. Although they were painting in different cities of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, their pictures show marked similarities of style, subject, composition, and technique. This dynamic rivalry played its part in the remarkable quality of their respective works; in this context we might be tempted to think of Vermeer as just one painter among others, but in point of fact this reciprocal contact tended to render his temperament sharper and more individual. Rather than a stylistic innovator, he emerges as an agent of metamorphosis.
Blaise Ducos, Department of Paintings, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Adriaan E. Waiboer, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Advance reservations for a specific time slot are required for all visitors to the Vermeer and Valentin de Boulogne exhibitions. Make your reservation online (as of Monday, March 6) or at the museum on the day of your visit. This will limit potential waits to a maximum of 45 minutes beneath the shelter of the Pyramid. Due to the “Vigipirate” security measures, access to the museum may take longer.