His pictures appear peculiar, his figures quirky and his street scenes stage-like. For a long time, his works were confused with those of Johannes Vermeer. His paintings are represented among the world’s most famous museum collections, and they are coveted rarities among collectors. But to date the painter Jacobus Vrel appears to be a phantom.
The purchase of Vrel’s Street Scene, with the help of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung in 2018, represents the Alte Pinakothek’s first acquisition of a major work by this enigmatic painter. This painting is of particular importance within his small oeuvre of mainly cityscapes and interiors. It is one of Vrel’s earliest works and yet also his most complex architectural composition. This seemingly typical example of Dutch Baroque painting differs from all other architectural representations of the time and thus occupies a prominent position within the collection. Vrel was a pioneer in his field, and not an imitator as was long assumed.
As the result of an international research project in cooperation with the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich, the Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt in Paris and the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and in close collaboration with numerous international specialists from a variety of disciplines the first monograph and catalogue raisonné on Jacobus Vrel, Jacobus Vrel. Looking for clues of an Enigmatic Painter has been published by Hirmer Verlag in May 2021. The first monographic exhibition on Jacobus Vrel will be shown in 2023 at the Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt in Paris and the Mauritshuis in The Hague.