From the museum website, 27 September 2012
Explore the musical pastimes of the 17th century Netherlands through a lively display combining the art of Vermeer and his contemporaries with rare musical instruments and songbooks of the period.
For the first time the National Gallery’s two paintings by Vermeer, Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal will be brought together with Vermeer’s Guitar Player, which is currently on exceptional loan from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House.
These beautiful and evocative paintings by Vermeer will be displayed with works by his contemporaries and juxtaposed with musical instruments and songbooks from the same period.
Music was one of the most popular themes in Dutch painting, and carried many diverse associations. In portraits, a musical instrument or songbook might suggest the education or social position of the sitter; in scenes of everyday life, it might act as a metaphor for harmony, or a symbol of transience.
The exhibition will display 17th-century virginals (a type of harpsichord), guitars and lutes alongside the paintings to offer a unique insight into the painters’ choice of instruments, and the difference between the real instruments and the way in which the painters chose to represent them.
The exhibition will also incorporate music of the era in various ways, enriching the visitor’s experience of the serene and elegant ambiance created in paintings by Vermeer and other masters of the Dutch Golden Age.