She’s been the subject of a book and a movie, and now her face is everywhere in New York City. Overexposure can dull our curiosity about art; it’s easy to assume we’ve “seen it” when what we’ve actually seen are reproductions. But judging from the attendance numbers at The Frick Collection’s Masterpieces of Dutch Paintings, interest in Vermeer’s original Girl with a Pearl Earring painting continues to surge apace with its celebrity. Together with fourteen other paintings from the Mauritshuis, the Girl is on view at The Frick through January 19, 2014.
This small shows exemplifies the Dutch Golden Age, a time of economic prosperity for the independent Dutch Republic, thanks to its well-developed trading routes and naval might. Enduring affluence created a culture of arts patronage and an interest in luxury goods among Dutch citizens. These tastes were indulged at home, in private, through décor, dress, food and art; in public wealthy Dutch merchants and their families continued to prize and demonstrate modesty. This dichotomy is beautifully explained in Simon Schama’s excellent book on this period: The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age.
You may recognize Carel Fabritius’s painting, The Goldfinch. It has recently gained an additional measure of celebrity as the namesake, cover image, and central plot device of Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, which was just named as one of The New York Time’s 10 Best Books of 2013. Tartt’s books are rare and always highly anticipated, so you would think no opportunity for cross-promotion would be overlooked by the publisher’s marketing group. In fact, Tartt only learned that Fabritius’s The Goldfinch would go on view at the Frick on the same day that her book debuted in US bookstores from her Dutch publisher.
Portraiture, landscapes, still lifes, and genre paintings are all on view, and each painting is accompanied by an excellent audio guide. When I visited in November the gallery was crowded, but because most visitors were using the audio guide we moved together in an orderly, paced procession and I was able to see each painting, including details of the beautiful textile in the portrait below, up close.
Visiting the show:
Tickets are required to visit this show; you can and should purchase them in advance online. “Ticketed shows” usually translates in my mind to “ineffective effort at crowd control” but as I mentioned, this is an easy show to navigate. And, crowds or not, it’s worth making a special effort to see the show. You’ll be in good company: “For Fervent Fans of the Dutch Masters, ‘It’s a Dream Come True.’”
Fortunately for those unable to visit in person, the Frick has put the show online. Along with a complete image library, web visitors can read the gallery labels and view each painting individually while listening to the associated audio narrative.
Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis is on view at the Frick Collection through January 19th, 2014.
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