The Concert - johannes vermeer, 1663-1666

johannes vermeer (Delft, 1632 - 1675, Delft)

The Concert, 1663-1666

Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 64.7 cm (28 9/16 x 25 1/2 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

P21w27

Description

Stolen in 1990.

Provenance

Purchased by A. Delfos, probably for Diederik van Leyden, Lord of Vlaardingen (1744-1810) from the sale of the Johannes Lodewyk Strantwyk collection at Kabinet Konstige Schilderyen, Amsterdam for 315 florins on 10 May 1780, lot 150.
Purchased by the dealer A. Paillet from the sale of the M. Van Leyden collection at Chez A. Paillet et H. Delaroche, Paris for 350 francs on 10 September 1804, lot 62.
Purchased by the dealer Laneuville, probably from Antoine de Sauzay, the director at Mont-Blanc (1745-1821) at Chez A. Paillet, Paris for 131 francs on 8 January 1810, lot 62.
Offered for sale from the painter and dealer Charles Elie, Paris on 24 April 1810, lot 101.
Offered for sale at Messrs, E. Foster and Son, London on 26 February 1835, lot 127.
Offered for sale at Messrs. Christie, Manson, and Woods on 2 April 1860, lot 49.
Purchased by an unknown buyer, possibly from the collector Prince Paul Demidoff (1798-1840), through the art dealers Charles Pillet, Haro, and Mannheim, Paris for 5100 francs on 1 April 1869, lot 14.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the journalist and art critic Thoré-Bürger (Étienne Joseph Théophile Thoré) (1807-1869) at Hotel Drouot, Paris for 29,000 francs on 5 December 1892, lot 31, through Fernand Robert, her regular agent in Paris.
Stolen in 1990.

Bibliography

Kabinet Konstige Schilderyen. Door de voornaamsten Nederlandsche en eenige andere meesters...verzamelt...den heer Johannes Lodewky Strantwyk... (Amsterdam, 10 May 1780), p. 35, lot 150. (as Jan van der Meer)
Chez A. Paillet et H. Delaroche. Catalogue de la célèbre collection de tableaux de M. Van Leyden, d'Amsterdam... (Paris, 10 September 1804), pp. 45-46, lot 62.
A. Paillet and M. Chariot. Catalogue des tableaux, printures, a la gouche, en émail et en miniatures... (Paris, 8 January 1810), pp. 17-18, lot 59.
Charles Elie. Catalogue de la belle galerie de tableaux... (Paris, 24 April 1810), pp. 34-35, lot 101.
Messrs. E. Foster and Son. A Catalogue of Pictures of the Italian, Dutch, French, and English Schools... (London, 26 February 1835), p. 8, lot 127.
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Piero Bianconi. The Complete Paintings of Vermeer (New York, 1967), pp. 33-34, 91, pls. xvii-xviii, cat. 19.
Magdeleine Mocquot. "Vermeer et le portrait en double miror." Le Club Français de la Médaille (1968), pp. 67-69, ill.
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Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 10, 90-91 ill.
Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Jan Vermeer (London, 1981), pp. 33, 36, 70, 100, 120-23, 152, pl. 29-20. (dated as 1665-1666)
Ignacio L. Moreno. "Vermeer's The Concert: A Study in Harmony and Contrasts." The Rutgers Art Review (Jan. 1982), pp. 50-57, no. 1. (as about 1665)
David M. Bergeron. Shakespeare's Romances and the Royal Family (Lawrence, 1985), pp. 224-26, ill. (as dated about 1664)
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Commentary

In a pristine domestic parlor, two women and a man concentrate on making music. The standing woman holds a sheet of music and raises her hand to beat time for her companions. Turned enigmatically away from our gaze, the seated gentleman wears an elaborate decorated sash that indicates his membership in a civic militia. Some scholars have been tempted to interpret Dutch musical scenes like this as moral warnings against seduction and illicit sex. Indeed, hanging on the wall at the right is a painting of a procuress by Dirck van Baburen. Although the subject of this painting-within-a-painting seems to suggest that something improper is taking place, the Procuress was in fact owned by Vermeer’s family. Moreover, the figures in the room are intently preoccupied with their music: they do not look at each other, and seem unaware they are being observed. Their intensity does not invite interruption. Lying on the large table at left is a lute, while a viola da gamba lies on the floor. Are these instruments soon to be taken up by the trio, or are others to join the group? Vermeer crafts rather deliberately a sense of mystery: this study in social interaction is a comedy of manners open to our interpretation.

The mystery is intensified by Vermeer’s famed attention to the reflections of light. It sparkles off the women’s pearls (Mrs. Gardner’s favorite), the gold threads of the man’s sash, the white silk skirt, and even the Persian carpet heaped on the table.

Isabella Stewart Gardner may have been drawn to the painting by its elegant depiction of the domestic music-making that she herself was so fond of. The painting was her first major acquisition, and she bought it without the help of experts. It was bought at the Paris auction of the estate of Théophile Thoré (1807–1869), a prominent critic who wrote under the pseudonym William Bürger. He had been instrumental in reviving the reputation of Vermeer, which made this painting especially important.

Source: Alan Chong, "The Concert," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 149.

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