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Monday, January 24, 2022

A Vermeer Restoration Reveals a God of Desire

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DRESDEN, Germany — After just about 3 centuries at the back of a layer of paint, a unadorned Cupid has surfaced in one of the crucial global’s best-loved artistic endeavors, tremendously changing the background of a quiet inside scene.



The plump, golden-locked god in Johannes Vermeer’s “Woman Studying a Letter at an Open Window,” was once printed in a recovery challenge that Stephan Koja, director of the Previous Masters Image Gallery in Dresden, Germany, described as “a detective tale and an journey.”

The portray is the point of interest of an exhibition on the gallery, opened on Thursday through Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and High Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, and operating via Jan. 2. It’s one in all simply 35 works definitively attributed to Vermeer: The Dresden display, known as “Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection,” unites 10 of them along works through contemporaries from whom Vermeer realized, together with Pieter de Hooch and Gerard ter Borch.



Ever since an X-ray of “Woman Studying a Letter at an Open Window” was once made greater than 40 years in the past, students had been conscious about the Cupid, who stares out of a portray throughout the portray. The segment, within the higher proper of the canvas, was once hidden beneath a rectangle of paint at the back of the lady’s head. However they’d all the time assumed that Vermeer had erased the god himself.

So when curators on the Dresden State Artwork Collections, which oversees the Previous Masters Image Gallery, first determined to revive the portray in 2017, there have been no plans to reveal him. However the rectangle spoke back in a different way from the remainder of the portray to a solvent that restorers used to take away the varnish, Koja mentioned in an interview.

That advised the paint contained other elements from Vermeer’s, making it much more likely that it was once carried out through some other hand. The darker colour additionally advised a later artist may have attempted to compare the unique paint after it had darkened with age.

The museum appointed an advisory panel of Vermeer professionals and restorers. The gang agreed that disposing of microscopic samples from the portray for trying out was once justified — a call, Koja mentioned, to not be taken flippantly. Research of the tiny fragments gave conclusive proof that the Cupid was once overpainted years — even a long time — after Vermeer finished the paintings within the past due 1650s, Koja mentioned.

“We discovered a layer of varnish with dust on most sensible of it” that will have to have accrued later, Koja added. “It was once transparent the highest layer of paint wasn’t through Vermeer. It was once a distortion through a international hand in opposition to the aim of the artist.”

After the professional panel gave the go-ahead, restorers uncovered a strip underneath the painted rectangle, about part an inch broad. Now not best was once the brushwork at the Cupid unmistakably Vermeer’s, it was once additionally nonetheless in superb situation, Koja mentioned.

“The result of the assessments had been so overwhelming that it was once transparent what we needed to do,” he mentioned. The panel agreed that Christoph Schölzel, a portray restorer on the Dresden museum, will have to disclose the Cupid in complete. Schölzel took a yr and a part, running inch through inch with a scalpel and a gradual hand beneath a microscope.

Koja mentioned the portray had received one thing, no longer best with regards to composition and colour stability, but additionally with recognize to its content material. Whilst the blush at the woman’s cheeks up to now made transparent that she was once studying a love letter, the god of need at the wall provides a message about the type of love Vermeer may have supposed. His Cupid is proven trampling on a masks, a logo of deception, to turn that love conquers deceit and dishonesty.

The image-within-a-picture additionally connects the paintings to Vermeer’s later inside scenes, lots of which painting figures through home windows, flooded in gentle. Those regularly seize a second wherein the topic is misplaced in idea, on my own, every so often in the midst of a home activity. Art work or maps at the partitions at the back of them upload to the viewer’s working out of the characters’ internal existence.

The similar Cupid seems in 3 different Vermeer artwork, together with “Younger Lady Status at a Virginal,” which could also be within the Dresden display and is on mortgage from the Nationwide Gallery in London. However on this paintings, there is not any masks overwhelmed beneath Cupid’s foot — as a substitute he holds what looks as if a letter. In “Woman Interrupted at Her Tune,” which the Frick Assortment in New York has despatched to Europe on mortgage for the primary time for the Dresden display, the Cupid looms over the couple within the foreground, leaving no room for doubt about their ideas.

It’s most likely that the Cupid was once in accordance with an actual portray in Vermeer’s ownership. A list of his property, which integrated about 50 artwork, mentions “a Cupid.” Whilst the portray has no longer been situated or recognized, the curators say they imagine that it was once almost definitely a modern paintings through the Dutch painter Caesar van Everdingen. (Every other Cupid portray through that artist is on show within the Dresden exhibition.)

Some mysteries stay. It’s not transparent precisely who painted over the god — nor why, or when — even if we all know that different Vermeer artwork had been altered through later generations to fulfill recent tastes. The invention has additionally triggered hypothesis about some other of his works, “Lady With a Pearl Necklace,” which is within the choice of the Berlin State Museums.

The lady in that portray, wearing yellow trimmed with ermine, stands in entrance of a replicate, her hands at the ribbons at both finish of the necklace, in a second of quiet introspection. In the back of her is a stark white wall. Research has proven {that a} map putting at the wall was once painted over — however through whom?

Uta Neidhardt, leader restorer for Dutch portray within the Dresden State Artwork Collections, mentioned it would had been accomplished through Vermeer himself, however added, “Our colleagues in Berlin are certain to stand numerous questions.”

Koja mentioned that the Dresden group would be at liberty to help if curators in Berlin determined to research extra carefully. However Katja Kleinert, the respectable liable for Seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish portray on the Berlin State Museums, mentioned that evaluation carried out not up to 20 years in the past confirmed that the map — in contrast to the Dresden Cupid — was once by no means painted to finishing touch.

“It was once best sketched,” she mentioned. “We’re beautiful positive our wall was once painted through Vermeer.”

Johannes Vermeer: On Mirrored image
Via Jan. 2, 2022, on the Previous Masters Image Gallery, in Dresden, Germany; gemaeldegalerie.skd.museum.

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