Vermeer. The Art of Painting.
Analysis of a Masterpiece
Curated by Dr. Sabine Pénot and Mag. Elke Oberthaler
Our exhibition focuses on a single painting.
Vermeer kept “The Art of Painting” in his studio as a show-piece for potential buyers, and it is regarded as his artistic legacy. There was probably no commission for this large masterpiece, and it never left Vermeer’s studio during his lifetime. Even after his death his widow tried to avoid having to sell it, despite her pronounced financial difficulties.
For the first time, the painting was now the subject of a comprehensive technological and conservation study. Like a crime-scene analysis, the exhibition studies Vermeer’s use of pigments and binding media, and his technique. We also examine the much-discussed question of whether Vermeer used perspective drawings and/or optical instruments (e.g. a camera obscura) to construct his painting.
Among the objects on show are Claes Jansz. Visscher’s original map of the 17 Provinces, which is depicted in the painting, a chandelier embellished with a double-headed eagle, a sumptuous tapestry, and an exact copy of the black silk doublet decorated with slits across its back and arms. With the help of these props we analyse the painting’s many layers of meaning.
Loans from European and American museums and private collections, together with historical documents loaned by Dutch archives, draw a fascinating panorama for Vermeer’s masterpiece.
In addition there are paintings, sculptures and excerpts from films by contemporary artists (e.g. George Deem, Maria Lassnig, Peter Greenaway) who were inspired by Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting”.