The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, July 3, 2022

Vermeer's 'Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window' presented in Dresden
While the painting, considering its age, is in good condition and its state of preservation remains stable, its surface was characterized by severely darkened layers of varnish and old retouching – one of the main reasons to restore the painting. © SKD, Photo: Sebastian Kahnert.

DRESDEN.- The internationally well-known and venerated painting Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer can now, more than two and a half centuries on, be enjoyed looking just as it did when it left the artist’s studio. Previous x-ray examinations indicated that a picture of a naked Cupid in the painting had been overpainted. Today, new laboratory tests have conclusively determined that the overpainting was not by Vermeer’s hand. On this basis, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister decided in the course of the current restoration of the work to remove the overpaint. To allow the public to participate in the process of restoration, the Girl Reading a Letter will be presented in its current intermediate state at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in the Semperbau from 8 May to 16 June 2019.

Johannes Vermeer’s (1632–1675) Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (ca. 1657/59) has long counted among the principal works of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. It was acquired in Paris in 1742 for the collection of the Saxon Elector Frederick August II. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Girl Reading a Letter was restored several times in Dresden. In 2017, when the current comprehensive restoration of the painting got underway, the results of numerous previous analyses could be drawn upon. In 1979, an x-ray image of the work revealed a completely overpainted “picture in the picture” showing a naked Cupid on the wall of the room in the background. Annaliese Mayer-Meintschel published this finding in 1982 and it found mention in numerous publications. From then on scientists assumed that Vermeer had rejected the Cupid image and painted over the back wall of the room himself.

After Vermeer’s The Procuress was successfully restored at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden between 2002 and 2004, the focus increasingly shifted to Girl Reading a Letter. In the spring of 2017, the comprehensive restoration of the artwork began, carried out by painting conservator Christoph Schölzel. The research and restoration project is led by Stephan Koja, Director of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Skulpturensammlung (classical antiquity to 1800); Uta Neidhardt, Chief Conservator at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister; and Marlies Giebe, Head of Painting Restoration. Further, it is the role of Michael Mäder, physicist at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s department of research and scientific cooperation to promote interdisciplinary involvement in the project. A partner to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the archaeometry laboratory at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, directed by Christoph Herm, is a further contributor.

The project enjoys the support of an international expert commission, including colleagues from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Washington and Vienna, who lend their advice during regular meetings. The ongoing restoration is also informed by the findings of extensive research on the work of Johannes Vermeer carried out in the process of restoring paintings of his at other major institutions over the past two decades.

While the painting, considering its age, is in good condition and remains stable in terms of its conservation condition, its surface was marked by very darkened layers of varnish and old retouching – one of the main reasons to restore the painting. The layers of varnish severely compromised the effect of the painting’s colours and were removed in the first phase of the restoration. Now the appearance of the work once again follows the intention of the painter, with subtle, cool colouration.

In the past years, x-ray and infrared reflectography imaging as well as microscopic analyses have been re-evaluated in Dresden. A detailed analysis of the canvas substrate as well as research on the restoration history have also been carried out. Several colour samples were taken from the Vermeer painting and analysed for layering and consistency in the archaeometry laboratory at the Hochschule für Bildenden Künste Dresden. These up-to-date examinations were decisive in the re-evaluation of the large overpainted area covering the Cupid in Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. It was concluded that the overpainting is not by Vermeer but was done at least several decades after the master had completed the painting and most certainly after his death. An x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy of the painting’s entire surface, carried out in 2017 with the support of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, confirmed this new insight.

In light of the many indications that supported the idea that the overpainting had been carried out by a hand other than Vermeer’s, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, supported by the expert commission, decided early in 2018 to remove the layer of overpaint.

The restoration process has proven very demanding, complex and extremely time-intensive. Using high magnification, Christoph Schölzel has been carrying out the removal of the layer of overpaint with a scalpel. This is the only method that will allow for the preservation of extant residues of the varnish covering Vermeer’s original paint. Presumably, this constitutes the last surviving layer of varnish originally applied by Vermeer.

Considering the degree of precision required here, we may assume that work on the painting will continue for at least another year before it will be fully restored. The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden will therefore present Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window to the public in its current intermediate state at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in the Semperbau from 8 May to 16 June 2019.

A documentary film informs visitors about the process of restoration so far.

Today's News

May 8, 2019

Vermeer's 'Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window' presented in Dresden

Gutted and broke: Brazil's National Museum pleads for money

Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art features 9 works by Frank Stella

Board committee approves architect for new and expanded University Art Museum

In-depth exhibition features over 40 modern and contemporary tapestries

18th-century map of South Carolina and a part of Georgia is acquired by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Modern and historical jewels and gemstones highlight Phillips Hong Kong Jewels and Jadeite Spring Sale

Phi presents: Renata Morales and Marina Abramović at Ca' Rezzonico Gallery

Modern sculpture meets ancient Greece in unique island exhibition

DYSFUNCTIONAL opens in Venice and invites visitors to rethink boundaries between art and design

Chile's Valparaiso, an open air graffiti and mural art gallery

Vanja Malloy named to lead Syracuse University Art Galleries

Phillips sale features a selection of exceptional timepieces encompassing vintage and modern sports watches

Gallery Hyundai announces new Executive Director

Phillips announces highlights included in the Hong Kong Watch Auction: EIGHT

New exhibition examines the relationship between contemporary art and the rural

Exhibition features twenty-five new sculptures and ten related drawings by Ron Nagle

Blanton Museum permanently endows Spanish Americas curatorship

Austria hands over MiG 'symbol' of Croatian independence war

The Glass House announces 70th anniversary celebration, summer party and auction

Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center announce new Director and Curator, Film & New Media

Exhibition explores the extent to which artists avail artificial intelligence in their artistic practice

Strauss & Co sale includes important artworks by African moderns

Leading artists come together for United Artists for Europe

Artistic Glass Bong Creator: Empire Glassworks

The benefits of using FB video download free can help you in fast sharing

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful