The Young Vermeer

  • 8th December 2010 − 13th March 2011 | Scottish National Gallery (Scottish National Gallery) | Admission free

The Young Vermeer

The paintings of Johannes Vermeer are now world-famous but during his lifetime Vermeer was known only to a small circle of devotees and never attained the same level of fame as other Dutch artists such as Rembrandt or Gerrit Dou. After his death in 1675, Vermeer was quickly forgotten and his works were often misattributed to artists with greater reputations.

It was only in 1859 that the French connoisseur Étienne Thoré-Bürger discovered the signature on ‘The Procuress' in Dresden and identified it as the earliest work of Vermeer then known. In 1901 the ‘young Vermeer' took on a more distinct shape and character. The London dealer Forbes & Paterson offered for sale Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. Recent cleaning had brought to light Vermeer's signature. This discovery also finally confirmed Vermeer's long disputed authorship of the Diana and her Nymphs.

While these early works differ from their successors in terms of size, style and subject matter (mythological subjects, Biblical scenes, and brothel scenes are not found in Vermeer's later work), they already show Vermeer's exceptional interest in the depiction of colour and light and demonstrate the emergence of his exceptional talent.