The female figure in Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” (1657-59), art historians have long known, is not exactly alone in the room. As early as 1979, x-rays revealed a painting of a full-length cupid hanging on the wall behind her, partly shielded by a silky green trompe l’oeil curtain pulled to the side. This picture-within-a-picture, a hallmark of the artist’s opulent renderings of Dutch interiors, was further confirmed using infrared photography.
But until recently, experts assured us Vermeer had painted over the chubby amorini himself. In 2019, laboratory tests led to a shocking discovery: the cupid imagery was covered up by someone other than the artist, likely decades after its completion. Conservators at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) in Dresden, where the painting has resided for over 250 years, decided to return the work to its original state, removing the layers of varnish and overpaint concealing the original composition.
Images of the newly completed restoration, released yesterday by Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, show Vermeer’s intended design. The blond-haired god of love and desire holds a bow in his right hand and gazes out at the viewer from the picture on the wall, enclosed by a thick black frame. On the floor behind him are two masks, possible symbols of deception; Cupid tramples over one of them with his right foot in an allegory of faithfulness and true love. Vermeer’s famous ethereal light streams through the open window, lending the scene a transcendent, spiritual glow.
In the restored version “the Delft painter’s actual intention becomes recognizable,” said museum director Stephan Koja in a statement.
“Beyond the ostensibly amorous context, it is a fundamental statement about the nature of true love,” Koja added. “Before, we only looked at a vestige. Now we understand it as a key image in his oeuvre.”
“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” will be the centerpiece of Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. The exhibition, on view from September 10 through January 2, 2022, will feature around 50 works of Dutch genre painting, including nine by Vermeer (less than 40 paintings by the artist are known to exist.)
Let’s be honest: On a best bathrooms list, no one wants to be number two.
Advocacy groups are pushing for a 5% royalty in resales, which would pertain even after the artist dies, in which case the funds would go to their estate.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
This week, the Getty Museum is returning ancient terracottas to Italy, parsing an antisemitic mural at Documenta, an ancient gold find in Denmark, a new puritanism, slavery in early Christianity, and much more.
The absence of an explicit framing of American art, in all of its diversity, as a visual culture of empire distorts and hampers our ability to understand — and reimagine — our social world.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
The gap between the material body and the psychological one, which we all too often take for granted, is one of the underlying themes of Hiro’s exhibition.
David Rios Ferreira and Denae Shanidiin join forces to bring awareness to the plight of Indigenous women and girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Metrograph’s series The Process features films that were either directed by Robert M. Young or made with the help of Irving Young’s postproduction facility.
Memes depicting a sinister, all-powerful Joe Biden alter ego are sweeping the internet, and the Democratic establishment is loving it.
“She dug into what she was fascinated by and obsessed with: things that existed on the periphery, people who didn’t follow the rules,” said one of her friends.