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Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge Opens Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence

The Fitzwilliam Museum presents Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence an exhibition on view Wed 5 October 2011 to Sun 15 January 2012.

A new exhibition on the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer will explore the mysterious appeal of the women in his paintings. Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence features 28 works by master painters of the Dutch Golden Age and four iconic works by Vermeer, including The Lacemaker from the Musée du Louvre in Paris, on show in the UK for the first time.

Women are one of the key subjects in Vermeer’s works: whether gazing out wistfully at the viewer, or focusing on an activity with an almost eerie calm, they possess a powerful allure. This exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum is the first to focus on Vermeer’s domestic interiors and, by examining them in the context of paintings by other Dutch Golden Age masters, explores the enigma of these women who seem crystallised in a moment in time.

The vivid realism of these paintings provides a remarkable window into the private world of women in the 17th-century Dutch Republic. These scenes about the home seem hauntingly familiar even today: from the meditative calm of needlework, playing music, reading or simply daydreaming to such mundane domestic activities as cooking, shopping, washing and dressing, minding children, gossiping and eavesdropping. Often framed with a painted window or doorway, the viewer has the impression of having stumbled upon a private moment hidden behind closed doors.

Revealing the Dutch Golden Age ideals of the home, feminine beauty and domesticity, the exhibition also explores how artists subtly altered and augmented reality to enhance the magnetic appeal and symbolic import of these painted worlds.

At the heart of this stunning exhibition is Vermeer’s extraordinary painting The Lacemaker (c.1669-70), one of the Musée du Louvre’s most treasured works, rarely seen outside Paris and now on loan to the UK for the first time.

Complementing this painting are three further works representing the pinnacle of Vermeer’s mature career: A lady at the virginals with a gentleman ‘The Music Lesson’ (c.1662-5) on loan from The Royal Collection; A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (c.1670) from the National Gallery, London; and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (private collection, New York). Joining these are 28 masterpieces of genre painting from such artists as Cornelis de Bisschop, Gerard ter Borch, Esaias Boursse, Quiringh van Brekelenkam, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Nicolaes Maes, Cornelis de Man, Eglon van der Neer, Jacob van Ochtervelt, Godfried Schalcken, Jan Steen and Jacobus Vrel.

The Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum houses the University of Cambridge’s art collection and is a public museum and art gallery with an international reputation. More than half a million objects and works of art are held in five curatorial departments: Antiquities, Applied Arts, Coins and Medals, Manuscripts and Printed Books and Paintings, Drawings and Prints. The Fitzwilliam’s treasures range from Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities to the arts of the 21st century and include masterpieces by Titian, Canaletto, Stubbs, Constable, Monet, Renoir and Picasso, one of the world’s foremost Rembrandt print collections, Handel music manuscripts and the famous Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, one of the most significant collections of Korean ceramics outside South-East Asia, medieval illuminated manuscripts and outstanding collections of pottery, porcelain and medieval coins. The Fitzwilliam Museum welcomes over 300,000 visitors a year, offers a wide-ranging programme of temporary exhibitions and events, and has an award-winning Education Service. The Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays: 12.00 – 17.00. Free admission.

The Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RB
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 332900

Image: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), The Lacemaker, c.1669-70. Oil on canvas, 24 x 21 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Gérard Blot.

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