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< Better than the Coney Island Cyclone | Main | And if PARAKEETS like classical... >

Vermeer: Painter of Music

Posted at 6:27 PM on June 6, 2008 by Fred Child

I love it when we can broadcast concerts from the Frick Collection on Performance Today. It gives me a chance to talk about this great little museum on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. The Frick is smaller than the Metropolitan or the Guggenheim (both just up the street), but I love the Frick partly BECAUSE it's small. There are rarely crowds, you can cozy up to masterpieces and lose yourself in them for minutes on end without getting jostled and elbowed. And don't tell anyone (the crowds might come), but the Frick has three of the 35 existing paintings by Johannes Vermeer, including this one, "Girl Interrupted at Her Music."

Vermeer Girl

(Okay, okay, this image is tiny and the color is terrible, but you get the idea. Want a bigger better image? Here ya go. Better yet, go to the museum!)

Notice the musical instrument on the table? A cittern, with music manuscript draped over it. Looking at this image stirred a memory of a great Vermeer painting of a guitar player, which got me wondering about Vermeer and instruments. And (thank you, dear internet) it wasn't long before I stumbed across several wonderful essays about Vermeer and music.

This piece in the archives of Goldberg magazine lists the instruments that show up in Vermeer's work:

...three muselar virginals, a harpsichord, three bass viols, five citterns, a guitar, a trumpet and perhaps a recorder.

And this essay by Adelheid Rech at the "Essential Vermeer" website has it all -- high-rez images of all the paintings, engaging writing, user-friendly layout, and deep scholarship. And it's part of a larger study called "Music in the Time of Vermeer," with images, audio, and layers and layers of hyperlinked text. Here's how Adelheid starts:

"A painting is a world without change and without sound.Vermeer's paintings, instead, are full of musical instruments and people making music. In almost one third of his paintings, music is present in one way or another."

By the way, this summer, the Frick has put all three of their Vermeers together on one wall. And if you go on a Tuesday, you might catch a concert at the Frick, as well.

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