Expert A jug holder and basket were discovered hidden in the famous painting “The Milkmaid” by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The “amazing” discovery of a 17th-century masterpiece sheds new light on the enigmatic artist’s technique ahead of the museum’s largest-ever exhibition of Vermeer’s work, which opens in 2023. Advanced scanning technology highlights the milkmaid’s bright yellow and blue outfit. Vermeer initially painted the extra detail before changing his mind.
The resulting simplicity paved the way for subsequent masterpieces such as his iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring. It will also be part of next year’s landmark Vermeer exhibition, researchers say. “This reveals a new and unexpected Vermeer. It’s amazing,” said Gregor Weber, head of art at the Rijksmuseum, at a press conference. Vermeer’s transformation means that the figure of the maid seen in the painting pouring streams of milk from a ceramic jug “stands before us in a much more monumental way.” Researchers knew from X-rays performed about 10 years ago that there was something hidden beneath the layers of paint on the artwork, believed to date back to 1657-8. But I didn’t know what it was.
One of the most significant new discoveries by the Rijksmuseum is that the artist sketched a wooden holder for a jug on the wall just behind the milkmaid’s head. Experts previously thought it might be a fireplace, but a new technique called short-wave infrared reflectometry has revealed details of the jug and wooden frame. Typically used for industrial inspection and military purposes, this technique produces a blue “false color” image when it was actually black paint.
Further investigation revealed that such a jug rack was mentioned in Vermeer’s mansion after his death. A very similar model of Holder can also be seen in his 17th-century dollhouse in the Rijksmuseum. “What we discovered in The Milkmaid was that at first there was no very beautiful white wall behind her. Davids told AFP. “Now one of her jars is chosen to make the milk pudding she’s making. This is one of Vermeer’s thoughts, and he said, ‘This is too busy a composition.’ I thought, let’s repaint from the top.”
Another important finding is that the shadows of some kind of basket we had noticed before now look like a ‘fire basket’ woven from willow. The basket has been replaced with a much smaller footstove lined with Delft Blue tiles. Researchers also found a line of thick black paint “hastily applied” under the milkmaid’s left arm. This indicates that Vermeer made his first sketches quickly.
‘Less is better’
The discovered sketches provide important insight into the genius of Vermeer (1632-1675). Little is known about Vermeer, who lived a simple life in the historic city of Delft during the “Golden Age” of Dutch painting. Changes to “The Milkmaid” were significant for his later work, introducing a “simplicity motto” involving blocks of color and the use of light and shadow. “These steps influenced his entire work thereafter. He learned that less is more,” said Weber.
The Rijksmuseum uses a similar technique to reveal the creative process behind Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. “We may think that these iconic paintings no longer hold secrets for us,” said Annelies van Loon, a researcher at the Rijksmuseum and Mauritshuis in The Hague. . The exhibition, which will run from February 10 to his June 4, 2023, will feature 27 of Vermeer’s approximately 35 small lifetime works from museums around the world. will be ‘This is the first and last time that so many Vermeer paintings have been brought together,’ said Davids. Tickets go on sale on Thursday on the Rijksmuseum website. — AFP