Vermeer’s paintings are studded with maps, charts and globes, the symbols of the sea voyages that provide the key to Holland’s prosperity. In Vermeer’s lifetime, the latest geographical information could be found in the Dutch Republic, from which it was dispersed to the rest of the world. The Geographer depicts a man rapt in the study of unknown continents, surely an apt symbol of 17th-century Holland. This exhibition will allow you to read the motifs in Vermeer’s masterpiece and in other pictures from the Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish painting so you will understand what they meant to the people for whom they were intended.
Although only a little more than 30 of his works have survived, Johannes Vermeer, one of the giants of 17th-century Dutch art, is among the most popular painters in Japan. Only two of them feature a single male figure, and it is around one of these – his masterly Geographer – that this retrospective exhibition of paintings of the Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish art has been organized.
It is joined by some 95 representative works by such contemporaries as Rembrandt, Rubens, Jan Brueghel and Hals, all from the collection of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. This museum, famous all over Europe for its collection of Dutch and Flemish art, is now closed for renovation, and this is the first time it has lent out so many of its holdings since the inauguration of almost 200 years ago.
Needless to say, Vermeer’s Geographer has never been on display in Tokyo before.