Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” has a decidedly protracted provenance. Attributed first to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the canvas became best identified as a Vermeer unique in 1862. During World War II, the contemplative scene narrowly escaped destruction in the firebombing of Dresden, however then fell into the fingers of the invading Soviets, who refused to return the plundered painting until 1955.
Now, ongoing recuperation work has added but another wrinkle to the tale of the 1657 masterpiece: As Germany’s Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden introduced in advance this week, a current bout of laboratory checking out showed that an extended-hidden Cupid determined within the top proper-hand nook of the canvas became painted over not via the Dutch Golden Age artist, however an unknown birthday party who acted decades after Vermeer’s loss of life. Although art historians have recognized of the little god of affection’s existence considering that 1979, they previously believed Vermeer covered up the determine himself and, as a result, determined against restoring the painting to its original form.
According to a press launch, conservators opted to do away with the overpainting in lieu in their discovery, however in preference to waiting till the method is complete to go back the work to its place inside the museum’s Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, they have determined to pause halfway through in order that Cupid—or extra especially his head and upper frame—can finally make his public debut. Between May 8 and June sixteen, visitors might be able to view the portray, entire with a semi-unveiled Cupid painstakingly uncovered through scalpel scraping, earlier than it returns to the studio for the very last ranges of restoration.
As artnet News’ Kate Brown reviews, conservator Christoph Schölzel started working on the portray in 2017, the usage of X-ray, infrared reflectography imaging and microscopic analyses to study its underlying layers. These exams, conducted in conjunction with research at the canvas’ recuperation history, offered decisive evidence that Vermeer becomes no longer the only accountable for replacing Cupid with a blank wall.
“There becomes even a layer of dust above the original varnish on the Cupid, showing the painting had been in its original state for many years,” senior conservator Uta Neidhardt tells the Art Newspaper’s Catherine Hickley. The overpainting’s coloring, which becomes barely darker than that of Vermeer’s historical past, additionally spoke to the layer’s later date, as the second one artist had to fit darkening varnish on the authentic.
“This is the most sensational revel in of my profession,” Neidhardt says. “It makes it a specific painting.”
Interestingly, Hickley notes that the hidden Cupid, seen the status in a framed portrait on the wall in the back of the painting’s primary discern, carefully mirrors an outline of the god discovered in “A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal,” a 1670-seventy two Vermeer owned by means of London’s National Gallery. It’s feasible each work have been based totally on a real portray within the artist’s possession; a 1676 stock of his widow’s assets cites “a Cupid.”
The newly found out Cupid provides a new stage of meaning to the painting. Whereas the scene formerly supplied no clues to the eponymous letter’s content, the god of affection’s presence places the scene in a different context. Perhaps the woman, interest fixed at the crumpled paper in her hands, has simply had her coronary heart damaged by an uncaring lover. On an extra tremendous observe, it’s similarly possible Cupid’s watchful gaze is a sign of the challenge’s success in love.