A Guided Tour Through All of Vermeer’s Famous Paintings, Narrated by Stephen Fry

It does­n’t take par­tic­u­lar­ly long to be impressed by the paint­ings of Johannes Ver­meer even today, three and a half cen­turies after he paint­ed him. But an under­stand­ing of how he achieved the par­tic­u­lar visu­al effects that still inspire appre­ci­a­tion around the world comes only after spend­ing a bit more time with his work, ide­al­ly in the com­pa­ny of a more knowl­edge­able view­er. Start­ing in the spring of this year, you’ll be able to spend time with near­ly all of that work — no few­er than 25 of the 34 paint­ings unam­bigu­ous­ly attrib­uted to him — at Amsterdam’s Rijksmu­se­um. “With loans from all over the world,” says the Rijksmu­se­um’s site, “this promis­es to be the largest Ver­meer exhi­bi­tion ever.”

“The Rijksmu­se­um’s exhi­bi­tion in 2023 will include mas­ter­pieces such as The Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring (Mau­rit­shuis, The Hague), The Geo­g­ra­ph­er (Städel Muse­um, Frank­furt am Main), Lady Writ­ing a Let­ter with her Maid (The Nation­al Gallery of Ire­land, Dublin) and Woman Hold­ing a Bal­ance (The Nation­al Gallery of Art, Wash­ing­ton DC).”

The line­up also includes “the new­ly restored Girl Read­ing a Let­ter at the Open Win­dow from the Gemälde­ga­lerie Alte Meis­ter in Dres­den” as well as the Rijksmu­se­um’s Milk­maid and The Lit­tle Street. Both of those last paint­ings fig­ure promi­nent­ly in Clos­er to Johannes Ver­meer, a new online tour of all the artist’s famous paint­ings.

Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured a vari­ety of online attrac­tions offered by the Rijksmu­se­um, an insti­tu­tion eager to bring the world of the Dutch mas­ters online. As a vir­tu­al tour guide for Clos­er to Johannes Ver­meer it has enlist­ed Stephen Fry, that well-known enthu­si­ast of not just clas­si­cal art but also high tech­nol­o­gy. He pro­vides con­text for the paint­ings and points out ele­ments with­in them that we may nev­er have noticed, not­ing that Ver­meer achieved the effects he did by care­ful­ly putting things into his com­po­si­tions, but also by even more care­ful­ly tak­ing things out. It could­n’t have been easy for him to remove the peo­ple and objects he’d ren­dered with such painstak­ing real­ism, using sub­tle tech­niques to enrich their visu­al impact. But he’d ded­i­cat­ed him­self to the “search for still­ness,” as Fry calls it, and an artis­tic call­ing like that demands the occa­sion­al sac­ri­fice. Enter Stephen Fry’s vir­tu­al tour here.

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Relat­ed con­tent:

Down­load All 36 of Jan Vermeer’s Beau­ti­ful­ly Rare Paint­ings (Most in Bril­liant High Res­o­lu­tion)

What Makes Vermeer’s The Milk­maid a Mas­ter­piece?: A Video Intro­duc­tion

Mas­ter of Light: A Close Look at the Paint­ings of Johannes Ver­meer Nar­rat­ed by Meryl Streep

See the Com­plete Works of Ver­meer in Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty: Google Makes Them Avail­able on Your Smart­phone

Stephen Fry Takes Us Inside the Sto­ry of Johannes Guten­berg & the First Print­ing Press

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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