A new exhibition of works by Johannes Vermeer is always a significant event in the cultural calendar – not least because this particular Dutch artist produced relatively few paintings. Just 34 works are universally attributed to him today, each one the pride of the collection in which it resides.
The National Gallery is currently showcasing three of the painter’s best-known pieces. Together, they’re the centrepiece of a truly sumptuous exhibition entitled Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure – a show that’s been delighting gallery visitors since the end of June.
Unfortunately, it’s set to wrap up in a little over a month’s time, so would-be attendees don’t have long to plan their visits.
Two of the three paintings on display are from the National Gallery’s own collection – A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal. They’re rounded out with Guitar Player, a loan from the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood House.
As perceptive readers will quickly realise, music is the common thread that runs through these works. The exhibition sets out to put Vermeer’s paintings in the context of Dutch musical culture in the 17th century – looking at how the artist used instruments and sheet music to bring domestic scenes to life.
Alongside the paintings, the National Gallery is also displaying authentic harpsichords, guitars and lutes, some of which are more than 300 years old. Finally, it’s also using the exhibition space to host concerts played by the Academy of Ancient Music; the next – and last – of these takes place on September 1st, comprising works of 17th-century Dutch composers like Constantijn Huygens and Carolus Hacquart.
Vermeer and Music wraps up on September 8th. The National Gallery should prove easy to reach – it’s located in Trafalgar Square, a tourist hotspot in its own right and a stone’s throw from many of the best luxury hotels in London.