Johannes Vermeer is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Dutch golden age, despite producing a relatively small handful of paintings and achieving only modest success in his lifetime. The 34 confirmed Vermeer pieces that survive are highly prized in collections and galleries around the world, famous for their obsessive attention to detail, characteristic cornflower blue and yellow pigments, and clever use of light.
Next month, the National Gallery launches a major new exhibition on Vermeer and the event is sure to figure prominently in any art lover’s calendar. Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure opens on June 26th and focuses specifically on paintings with musical themes – meaning it should appeal to enthusiasts of this exceptional artist and lovers of 17th century music alike.
A total of three Vermeer originals will be on display. These include A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, both from the National Gallery’s collection; additionally, the gallery has secured a rare loan of Guitar Player from the English Heritage property Kenwood House. A number of paintings by the artist’s contemporaries will also be on display.
Vermeer’s paintings typically depict scenes from everyday life and the presence of musical instruments and books have a range of symbolic associations; the gallery suggests they might “act as metaphors of harmony” in domestic situations, for instance. In portraits, they denote the education and social standing of the subject.
The exhibition, which takes place in the gallery’s Sainsbury Wing, will feature significant contributions from the Academy of Ancient Music, which serves as resident ensemble and will give performances every Thursday, Friday and Saturday – “bringing the paintings to life with music of the period”, organisers say.
Exhibition-goers will also be able to see a number of genuine 17th century musical instruments, including sumptuously decorated virginals, lutes and guitars.
Tickets start from £7 for adults and the National Gallery is open between 10am and 6pm. The Academy of Ancient Music will perform six times for each day it is scheduled to appear and the times are listed on the gallery’s website.