With his quietly enchanting portraits of young women (especially one featuring a young girl wearing a pearl earring), Johannes Vermeer earned his spot among the most revered Dutch artists to wield a paintbrush, along with Rembrandt and Frans Hals. This February, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum will celebrate Vermeer’s artistic achievements by gathering the largest number of his paintings ever to be displayed under one roof.
Though he’s now considered to be one of the most famous artists of all time, Vermeer died in debt and in relative obscurity. He lived and worked in the western Dutch city of Delft during the 17th century and became head of his local painter’s guild during his lifetime. However, Vermeer didn’t achieve widespread fame until the mid-1800s, after popular French art critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger was blown away by View of Delft (1660) when he saw it at the Mauritshuis in 1842.
Vermeer produced a relatively small number of paintings (many of which are considered to be lost), and they are scattered across museums around the world. So the Rijksmuseum, which has four by the master in its permanent collection, partnered with several international institutions—including the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and New York’s Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art—to borrow their works and gather them into a mega exhibit simply titled Vermeer, which features 28 of the artist’s 36 known paintings.
Scheduled to run from February 10–June 4, 2023 (tickets are $31 per adult), the exhibition will spotlight some of Vermeer’s most recognizable paintings, including The Milkmaid (1658), Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (1657) (which has never been shown to the public in the Netherlands before), and, of course, Girl with a Pearl Earring (1664). But it will also expose visitors to some of his lesser known—but just as stunning—works including Lady Writing a Letter, with her Maid (1670), Young Woman Seated at the Virginals (1670), and Saint Praxedis (1655).
The inspiration for the exhibit came about through chance timing. When New York’s Frick Collection closed for renovations, the Rijksmuseum realized there would be an opportunity to not only to borrow its three Vermeers (Officer and Laughing Girl (1655), Mistress and Maid (1666), and Girl Interrupted at Her Music (1660)), but to put on a mega-show of Vermeer paintings by also tapping other museums from around the globe,
“This exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience a large number of Vermeer paintings together in one place,” said Taco Dibbits, general director of the Rijksmuseum, in a press release. “It is an exciting prospect for the public and all Vermeer lovers, as well as scientists, conservators and art historians.”
A sister exhibition at the Museum Prinsenhof Delft, called Vermeer’s Delft, will explore the Dutch master’s influence on his hometown and vice versa. It is scheduled to run during the same dates as Vermeer. Admission to the exhibition is included with the price of a Museum Prinsenhof Delft ticket, which costs $14 per person.