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Vermeer and the Delft School (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series) Hardcover – March 1, 2001
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From Library Journal
This rich and rewarding volume accompanies a wide-ranging exhibition, which opened to deserved acclaim at New York's Metropolitan Museum and is currently on view at the National Gallery in London. Vermeer's popularity has continued to soar in recent years, and this well-deserved recognition is validated in this catalog, which brings 16 of his existing canvases together with contextual information that explains the paintings as more than works of an isolated genius. The book reveals the riches of the 17th-century Dutch town itself, a center for patrons, art dealers, and artists creating both decorative and fine arts. The reader enjoys a neighborhood view of the offerings from the studios of De Hooch, van der Ast, Bramer, van Vleit, and Steen. The excellent essays by Liedtke and his fellow curators at the Met and the National Gallery evoke the artistic life of Delft from 1200 to 1700 and the rich history of the town's influence on Dutch culture. Whether they are looking for an overview of the period in Europe or for detailed information on an individual canvas, library users will find this volume helpful. Destined to become a standard reference, this is among the best museum publications of the last decade. Recommended for all libraries. Doug McClemont, New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This splendid volume, and the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that it accompanied, asks a historically significant question: Was there a seventeenth-century Delft School? Vermeer is beloved for his intimate domestic interiors either way, but the works of artists affectionately referred to as "little masters," artists who never approached Vermeer's level, benefit from being viewed in this context. As the somewhat scholarly but certainly accessible text and numerous beautiful color reproductions of paintings, drawings, and decorative pieces attest, many of these works are extraordinary for the insights they provide into the culture of Delft and the early free market for art. Approximately half of Vermeer's known works, some of which haven't traveled in more than a century, are represented and discussed, as are works by his teacher, Carel Fabritius, making this volume as pleasurable as it is informative. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The quality of the hundreds of illustrations included in the book, especially those which reproduce Vermeer's paintings, is extraodinary; the cover reproduction of Vermeer's Art of Painting is alone worth the price of the volume. Note particularly the pairing of The Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Study of a Young Woman (making a good case for pendant status), as well as perhaps the best reproduction ever of The Girl with a Red Hat (although it is somewhat over-sized).
Liedkte also generously provides a trove of bibliographical citations, more than enough to keep scholars busily productive well into the next generation. No serious study of Vermeer can proceed without reference to this book. Yet, it is a good read for anyone with a reasonably sophisticated knowledge of European history of that era, and will reward amatuer art historians of the Baroque period with its pinball-like associations.
Lovers of Vermeer will make this book a centerpiece in their library, returning to it again and again for information, clarification, and, most of all, aesthetic pleasure. Liedtke's opus is the next best thing to visiting the several handfuls of museums in the USA and Europe that hold Vermeer's 36 known works.
An excerpt from Liedtke's words comparing the Wrightsman bequest "Head of a Young Girl" (Salon 12 at the Metropolitan) - with the more famous "Girl With a Pearl Earring" (at the Mauiritshuis) illustrates Dr. Liedtke's perceptive eye:
"...The differences between the pictures are as remarkable as the similarities.
To be sure, the Mauritshuis painting is more immediately appealing, but the Wrightsman picture is equally impressive in its naturalism and perhaps more so in its suggestion of character. The less conventional physiognomy suits the thoughtful, sideward glance and the very different smile; here is no question which young woman would have posed for Martha and which for Mary had Vermeer, some years after painting these studies, undertaken to treat again the subject of Christ's visit to the house of his cousins."
Liedtke has intuitively recognized the particular charm of the Wrightsman painting: its homely grace and implicit familial love between the artist and his subject. The girl in the painting at the Met is obviously humbled and overjoyed that the artist has deemed her "beautiful enough in his eyes" to paint her picture, even as a mere study.
In my mind, Vermeer had already conceived the Mauritshuis painting as a typological portrait before he painted the Wrightsman piece. However, before he committed to creating the Mauritshuis composition, he decided to execute a study to examine the skin tones and light effects, as well as to assess the potential for expressing an iconic portrait of beauty in period dress.
I imagine that Vermeer, for the Wrightsman work, asked one of his daughters to "stand in" for the girl who later would become the Girl With a Pearl Earring. The surprising thing about the Wrightsman painting is that it is so much more satisfying emotionally (even empathic) than is the more famous and "prettier" Mauritshuis work.
The girl in the Wrightsman picture communicates a humble joy that brings tears to my eyes whenever I view it. Though I have no children, I experience the love that Vermeer had for this homely child who must have idolized her father, the master painter.
Liedtke evidently has picked up on the special quality of the Wrightsman girl, since he pays her the subtle tribute of being fit to portray the faithful and adoring Mary in the Biblical story of Jesus, Mary and Martha. I find this suggestion to be particularly apropos.
If anyone in the world understands and correctly interprets Vermeer, it is Dr. Liedtke. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a treasure in him. Any of his books are well worth the price.