One of many best challenges going through an exhibition curator is assembling a present on Johannes Vermeer. The artist’s reputation is such that museums that personal his work are extraordinarily reluctant to lend, since so lots of their guests flock primarily to see his work. On the Mauritshuis in The Hague, The Woman with the Pearl Earring (1665) is just about the museum’s emblem. The opposite drawback is that Vermeer’s surviving oeuvre is so small: simply 35 footage.
An exhibition opening in Dresden this month boasts ten Vermeers. This may occasionally not sound many, however prior to now 20 years solely the Musée du Louvre in Paris has assembled barely extra, for its 2017 present. Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister has two Vermeers in its assortment, The Procuress (1656) and Woman Studying a Letter at an Open Window (1657-59), with the remainder of the present made up from worldwide loans reminiscent of View of Homes in Delft/The Little Avenue (round 1658) from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Girl Holding a Steadiness (round 1664) from the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork in Washington, DC.
The Mauritshuis had promised Diana and Her Companions (1653-54), however that was earlier than the opening of the present needed to be delayed twice as a result of pandemic. Nonetheless, within the meantime, Dresden secured a alternative mortgage: Woman Interrupted at her Music (1658-59) from New York’s Frick Assortment, which has by no means left the US since its acquisition in 1901.
Though guests will swarm across the Vermeers, there might be loads extra to see. Round 50 associated style work by different Dutch Golden Age artists, reminiscent of Pieter de Hooch and Gerard Dou, will present context.
However the principle level of the Dresden exhibition might be to mark the completion of an astonishing four-year conservation undertaking that has reworked the museum’s Woman Studying a Letter at an Open Window. Latest analysis confirmed that a lot of the again wall within the work had been overpainted, most likely within the early 18th century, and beneath was an image of Cupid. The identical picture of Cupid seems in the back of London’s A Younger Girl Standing at a Virginal (1670-72), which will even be within the present, and was as soon as current within the Frick’s Woman Interrupted at her Music (however it’s now barely discernible).
When the restored Dresden portray is revealed within the present, as its centrepiece, a radical transformation might be obvious. Till lately, the viewer’s eyes have been instantly drawn to the lady’s head, however now Cupid additionally attracts consideration: our eyes dart between the letter-reader and the god of affection. With such a small oeuvre, a change in only one composition ought to encourage us to see Vermeer in a recent gentle.
• Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, 10 September-2 January 2022