A hidden Cupid in Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, one of the global’s most famous paintings, is set to resurface at the canvas after and a half centuries behind a layer of paint. During healing work, conservators observed, to their surprise, that the naked discern—which dominates the upper proper section of the image—changed into overpainted lengthy after the artist’s loss of life.

On the authentic canvas, the Cupid “image inside a photograph” hung on the wall at the back of the letter-analyzing woman. It turned into detected 40 years ago by x-ray, but pupils had usually assumed that Vermeer himself painted over it, says Uta Neidhardt, the senior conservator at Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie. The decision to repair Cupid to the work became taken after the latest laboratory assessments hooked up beyond doubt that the parent changed into overpainted many years after Vermeer finished it.

“There became even a layer of dirt above the unique varnish on the Cupid, showing the painting had been in its original kingdom for many years,” Neidhardt says. The overpainting changed into additionally slightly darker than the shade utilized by Vermeer within the historical past of his paintings, due to the fact the later artist had to compensate for the darkening varnish at the authentic, she says.

“This is the maximum sensational enjoy of my profession,” she says. “It makes it a distinctive painting.”



Produced in round 1657, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window has been in Dresden’s city collections for the reason that 1742 and is certainly one of simply 35 paintings definitively attributed to Vermeer. The identical Cupid portray additionally features in A Lady Standing at a Virginal within the National Gallery in London. Scholars trust it could have been a real picture in Vermeer’s possession: a 1676 inventory of his widow’s assets consist of mention of “a Cupid.”

Vermeer often referenced other works of artwork in his paintings as a tool to convey supplementary facts or commentary. The Cupid painting is “the only clue suggesting a love story” within the portray, Neidhardt says. “The factors of cover and concealment play a less dominant role in this early work by Vermeer than the composition whose background became modified through some other hand led us to trust.”

She concedes that a few visitors acquainted with the portray before its recovery may additionally omit the quiet background and introspective temper.

In 2017, Christoph Schölzel, Dresden’s painting restorer, commenced operating on Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Though in the exact condition, its surface becomes covered in a varnish that had darkened with age, turning the cool, diffused colorations of the painting yellowish. The first stage of Schölzel’s work focussed on doing away with this deposit.

After laboratory exams at Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and x-ray fluorescence examinations conducted with the guide of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam showed that the overpainting become extensively newer than the painting, the selection becomes taken in early 2018 to cast off the later paint and divulge the Cupid. An external panel of experts, such as Ige Verslype at the Rijksmuseum and Arthur Wheelock at the National Gallery in Washington, is advising at the recuperation, that’s funded with aid from the Hata Foundation in Amsterdam and Tokyo.

Schölzel’s painstaking paintings call for a microscope and a scalpel, which allows him to scrape off the overpaint without putting off the unique varnish on Vermeer’s model of the painting. The Cupid is up to now approximately 1/2-exposed—it is anticipated that the paintings will require as a minimum every other yr. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window may be displayed in its modern-day, semi-restored nation from 8 May to 16 June inside the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister inside the Semperbau in Dresden.

Dresden possesses two Vermeer artwork, and they’re some of the most important and treasured treasures within the city’s wealthy art collections. The 2d, The Procuress (1656), turned into restored between 2002 and 2004.

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