the rijksmuseum exhibition reveals the painting styles of johannes vermeer using modern scanners

Johannes Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum of art and history, welcomes visitors to its first retrospective, ‘Vermeer’ Exhibition by Johannes Vermeer in the history of the Rijksmuseum. 28 Vermeer paintings are on display for the exhibition, loans from seven countries around the world, making the exhibition the most complete overview of his work ever shown to the public.

According to the museum, seven of the paintings are on display in the Netherlands for the first time in over 200 years. These works of art share the same space as some of the classic Vermeer paintings that have long been known, such as The Milkmaid and The Girl with a Pearl Earring. Alongside the exhibition, extensive research was carried out in close collaboration with the Mauritshuis in The Hague to explore the artist’s ambitions, work, private life, religious beliefs and social milieu.

Images courtesy of the Rijksmuseum | Image: Macro XRF scan of The Little Street; Photo by Rijksmuseum/Kelly Schenk | Header: Macro XRPD scanning from The Milkmaid; Photo by Rijksmuseum/Kelly Schenk

Modern scanners for Johannes Vermeer

A past-meets-present trope occurs in the Vermeer exhibit Reich Museum as the research team turned to modern scanning techniques to speed up research into the exhibition. A team of curators, restorers and researchers from the Rijksmuseum worked closely with colleagues from the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the University of Antwerp to examine Vermeer’s painting using scanning methods called Advanced Macro-XRF and RIS, leading the team to Uncover artistic approach, process and longing for perfect composition.

The ongoing research will culminate in a presentation of the research results at an international symposium at the Rijksmuseum in 2025, marking 350 years after the death of Johannes Vermeer. The symposium will also present research conducted at other museums, including the National Gallery in Washington and the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Recent research has also uncovered the painter’s personal circumstances, including his social position, living environment and contacts with artists and fellow citizens.

johannes vermeer exhibition rijksmuseum
The milkmaid under the microscope. Photo by Rijksmuseum/Kelly Schenk

Rijksmuseum divided into thematic sections

The 28 paintings by Johannes Vermeer are displayed in a large setting covering the ten galleries of the Rijksmuseum’s Phillips Wing. The exhibition brings visitors closer to Vermeer and offers rich insights into his life and paintings through 11 thematic sections including: early ambitions, first domestic interiors, balance between the inner and outer world, letters, musical seduction, worldview and inner values.

Taco Dibbits, Director General of the Rijksmuseum, says that Vermeer may not have created many paintings, but their impact is unforgettable. “In a world that constantly demands of us, the quiet and intimacy of his work brings time to a standstill. We thank all museums and private collections for their generosity and for making this extraordinary exhibition possible.” he says.

The exhibition was designed by the French architect and designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The exhibition’s velvet decor in intense green, aubergine, and blue picks up on Vermeer’s characteristic compositions. The graphic design of the exhibition comes from Irma Boom.

johannes vermeer exhibition rijksmuseum
Officer and Laughing Girl, Johannes Vermeer, 1657-58, oil on canvas. The Frick Collection, New York, photo by Joseph Coscia Jr

johannes vermeer exhibition rijksmuseum
The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, 1658-59, oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Acquired with the support of the Rembrandt Association

johannes vermeer exhibition rijksmuseum
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1664-67, oil on canvas. Mauritshuis, The Hague. Estate of Arnoldus Andries des Tombe, The Hague

johannes vermeer exhibition rijksmuseum
The Glass of Wine, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1659-61, oil on canvas. State Museums in Berlin – Picture Gallery

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