Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, one of less than forty surviving paintings by the great Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), is now on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
. As he did throughout his career, Vermeer took his inspiration for this intimately scaled oil painting from contemporary life. Focusing attention on a single, well-dressed woman at a virginala keyboard instrument akin to a harpsichordVermeer achieved crystalline perfection. He stripped the scene of almost all other details so that the viewer can focus on the unidentified woman, the light that pours into the interior, and the forms crafted from that light. Installed in gallery 264, the painting is on loan from a private collection, which is also lending the Museum major works by Frans Hals and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.
Executed late in Vermeers life, A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is the last work by the artist to remain in private hands, aside from a picture owned by Queen Elizabeth II of England. It is also the most recent to be firmly attributed to the master. In addition to myriad investigations in the 1990s and after, recent analysis has found that it was painted on canvas cut from the same bolt of cloth that Vermeer used for The Lace Maker, which today hangs in the Louvre.
In addition to Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, the Leiden Collection, New York, is lending Portrait of Samuel Ampzing by Hals (c. 1582-1666), which depicts in bravura brushstrokes a Haarlem minister and writer. It is included in the new installation Painting and Reading in the Dutch Golden Age (gallery 273), where it joins works drawn from the John G. Johnson Collection and the Museums collection of Dutch art, the largest in the United States.
The Coat of Many Colors, a biblical scene attributed to van den Eeckhout (1621-1674), a pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, will be placed in gallery 258 on October 29, in proximity to a work by the same artist in the Museums collection.
Young Woman Seated at a Virginal will be on view at the Museum through March 2014, while the Hals portrait and The Coat of Many Colors will be on view until October 2014.
Vermeers pictures have seldom have been exhibited in Philadelphia. The last time a Vermeer was on display in Philadelphia was in 2004, when Young Woman Seated at a Virginal was on view at the Museum.