His pictures look rather odd, his figures introverted and his street scenes curiously stage-like. Jacobus Vrel appears to record everyday life in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century, yet creates miraculous worlds at the same time.
The painter himself is like a phantom. In spite of years of research, the mystery surrounding his identity remains unsolved. We only know his name from a single contemporary inventory and from the signatures on his 50-surviving works, which can scarcely be compared with those of his contemporaries. Vrel was a pioneer in his field. In their austerity and sometimes oppressive silence, his paintings seem unexpectedly modern, and it is for that reason that they are compared with the work of Vilhelm Hammershøi.
With detective-like investigations from the authors, and extensive technical examinations of the paintings, this monograph explores the enigmatic pictures of an artist whose works were once thought to have been created by Vermeer. The volumes three editors, Bernd Ebert, Cécile Tainturier and Quentin Buvelot, present a monograph-cum-catalogue raisonné that examines Vrels oeuvre from different angles and contributes significantly to our understanding of this elusive painter.
The present publication is the result of an international research project that brought together the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
in Munich, the Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection in Paris and the Mauritshuis in The Hague, working in close cooperation with numerous international specialists from a variety of disciplines.
Despite the growing interest in Vrels work, the artist has thus far been denied a monographic exhibition. An exhibition on the artist was planned for 2020-2021, but the project had to be postponed because of COVID-19. There are new plans for an exhibition in The Hague and Paris for 2023. This fall Vrels Street Scene with People Conversing will be launched at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich as a new acquisition by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, purchased with the generous support of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.