Vermeer & Music

VERMEER AND MUSIC – The Art of Love and Leisure, until 8th September at The National Gallery, London (


This is an elegant, harmonious exhibition that explores the combination of music and art in 17th century Holland.  The popularity of music among the wealthy citizens of the northern Netherlands is reflected in its frequent use as a subject in contemporary paintings.

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The Concert
Hendrick ter Brugghen
about 1626

The National Gallery, London

What makes this such a special show is the way period instruments (virginals, lutes, guitars, viols etc) and songbooks are displayed among the paintings.  In the first room the paintings show music as an attribute or allegory as the depiction of an instrument or songbook could be an indication of the sitter’s position or talent.  In both the scenes of everyday life and still-lifes it could also be a symbol of harmony or education.

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A Musical Party in a Courtyard
Pieter de Hooch


The National Gallery, London

In the succeeding rooms we see depictions of festivities and musical concerts, slightly more intimate duets, and then in room 4 solo musicians.  What makes this last room so special is the presence of five works by Johannes Vermeer, including the beautiful Guitar Player, on loan from Kenwood House.

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A Young Woman standing at a Virginal
Johannes Vermeer
about 1670-2

The National Gallery, London

There is an added bonus since three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) an ensemble from the Academy of Ancient Music performs music of the period.

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