Speaker and curator of the exhibition
Cécile Tainturier is curator at the Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection in Paris where she started as junior curator in 2007. She co-curated several exhibitions, among them Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt, which was organized in cooperation with the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2016. She also contributed to many publications, including the catalogue of the Dutch and Flemish paintings in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen (2010) and the exhibition catalogue of the Northern drawings in the Musée de Grenoble (2014).
Introduction to the exhibition: Jacobus Vrel, Enigmatic Forerunner of Vermeer
Jacobus Vrel is an outsider in the Dutch seventeenth century. This is known amongst art historians, but how do you make this clear to a wider audience? Unlike the Mauritshuis, that could offer the visitors of the Vrel exhibition an immersion in seventeenth-century Dutch art through its permanent collection, the Fondation Custodia is only open to the public on appointment like most print rooms. The Paris venue of the Jacobus Vrel show is thus expanded with some fifty paintings, drawings and prints from the Fondation’s own collection and from the Mauritshuis, the Alte Pinakothek, the Rijksmuseum and other Dutch and German museums. But with Vrel’s oeuvre being as it is – unusual and mysterious – the question about how to contextualize it within the production of his time remains. In this presentation Cécile Tainturier will share the behind-the-scenes organization of this complex undertaking.
Bernd Ebert works as Chief Curator for Dutch and German Baroque Painting at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich since 2013. He has co-curated various exhibitions and edited catalogues such as Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe with the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and Jacobus Vrel with the Mauritshuis and the Fondation Custodia in Paris. He started his career at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in 2005, co-curating the exhibition Circle Sphere Cosmos at the Pergamon Museum.
Lecture abstract: Searching for Jacobus Vrel and His Position in Dutch Art
Generations of art historians and connoisseurs have been trying to locate Vrel’s workplace. To this day, the fruitless archival search for the ‘phantom’ continues to give rise to various hypotheses as to when and where exactly the artist was active. Linking Vrel to one of the Dutch art centers based on his subjects or comparative stylistic analysis proves extremely difficult. His works look familiar and are, indeed, similar to those of other artists, but a comparison of details shows that he does not belong to any particular ‘school of painting’, even though his choice of subjects and interest in the depiction of individual motifs are common in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Let’s take a look together and solve the mystery of Jacobus Vrel.
Quentin Buvelot has been the senior curator of the Mauritshuis, The Hague, since 2008. He has organized numerous exhibitions for the Mauritshuis and elsewhere, including Dutch Portraits: The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals (National Gallery, London). With Desmond Shawe-Taylor, he curated the exhibition Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer, shown in London, Edinburgh and The Hague. Buvelot is one of the authors of the Vrel monograph (2021). He has published many catalogues and books, as well as numerous shorter contributions to scholarly magazines.
Lecture abstract: On Prototypes and Replicas in the Work of Vrel
In seventeenth-century Dutch painting, replicas are a rather uncommon phenomenon, with the exclusion of portraiture. Only rarely did painters make second, near identical versions of their paintings. In Vrel’s oeuvre of about fifty paintings, quite a number of replicas are known. The artist made some nearly identical versions of both his interior scenes and his street scenes. Sometimes Vrel made two versions of the same composition, but in one case multiple versions of one single composition are known. The ambition of this lecture is to raise awareness of the phenomenon of replicas in Dutch seventeenth-century art, a subject that is relatively understudied at present.
Boudewijn Bakker is retired Head Curator of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam. He studied history and art history at the University of Amsterdam and specializes in the history and theory of landscape painting in Dutch sixteenth- and seventeenth-century art. Recent publications include Rembrandt and the Humanist Ideal of the Universal Painter (2017) and The Tree and the Farmhouse: Bloemaert, Van Mander and the Birth of Dutch Landscape Painting (2022).
Dirk Jan de Vries
Dirk Jan de Vries is Professor in Heritage and History of Construction at Leiden University, worked at the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) and was editor of the Dutch magazine Bulletin KNOB. He studied art history and has a technical background. De Vries wrote a dissertation on urban medieval architecture and published about topographical paintings by seventeenth-century painters as Vrel, Springer, Ter Borch and Vermeer. His most recent book, Gezichten op gevels van huizen 1400-1700 [Faces on Facades of Houses 1400-1700] (2022), is a multidisciplinary European study in which building history, sculpture, painting and history come together.
Lecture abstract: Jacobus Vrel in Zwolle
Until recently, it was completely unclear which city (or cities) served as a model for the composition of Vrel’s curious townscapes. It has been suggested that he worked in the eastern part of the Netherlands, possibly in Zwolle, but further evidence for this claim was lacking. Through a thorough analysis of the architecture, building materials, paving and street furniture in his paintings, De Vries and Bakker eliminated more and more areas and thus narrowed down the likely geographical scope of Vrel’s activity. Finally, one town scene, painted in three variations, proved to hold the key to an accurate localization: a section of a particular type of medieval city wall that was built in only one Dutch town: Zwolle. Subsequently, other compositions were also found to refer back to typical Zwolle settings. Even though Vrel’s name has not been found in the Zwolle archives, it is now at least certain that he found his topographical inspiration in this city in particular.
Heike Stege is Head of the Scientific Department of the Doerner Institut and has been working as an analytical chemist at the Munich Pinakotheken since 2002. Her special research field is the analytical identification and history of pigments used by historical and modern artists in their paintings. She and her team are regularly involed in manifold art-technological research and publication projects dedicated to specific artists or painting schools, such as recently on Emil Nolde.
Lecture: Insight into Jacobus Vrel’s Painting Practice by Imaging Methods
As part of the research into the oeuvre of Jacobus Vrel, non-invasive examinations were caried out on nine of his panels using Imaging Methods (Infrared reflectography and Macro X-ray Fluorescence Scanning) accomplished by stereo microscopy. The data could be compared with technical images or reports on other works by Vrel kindly provided by numerous other collections and museum institutions. Thus, a more precise idea on Vrel`s individual working process and materials evolved. The research gave insight into his two methods for panel preparation, examples of perspective construction lines in the underdrawing phase and regularly minor adjustments or even compositional changes in the painting stage. The detected pigment palette of Vrel comprising lead white, lead-tin yellow, various brown, red and yellow ochres, carbon black, vermilion, blue and blue-green copper compounds, smalt and most likely also indigo corresponds well with pigments used by other seventeenth-century painters. However, Vrel`s occasional application of leaf gold to accentuate small pictorial elements or depict candle light is rather unusual and deserves further classification. Noteworthy are also two examples for the re-use /re-sizing of already painted panels by the artist.