Vermeer’s Secret Apprentice

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Johannes Vermeer, one of the greatest European painters, produced a remarkably small corpus of work. Here I address for the first time the role of Vermeer’s family members as models and his family secrets in his conceptions; place Vermeer’s paintings in chronological order to follow his gradual progression; and interpret anew central documents that have been misunderstood. Such factors provide a new picture of Vermeer’s singular vision. Most significantly, in response to inconsistencies in technique, materials, and artistic level, I demonstrate that several of the paintings accepted as canonical works by Vermeer, are in fact not by Vermeer at all but by his eldest daughter and secret apprentice, Maria.
Maria already served as model for her father’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, a major icon of Western art, but also took herself as model for her early self-portrait study, the equally renowned Girl with a Red Hat. These arguments have radical consequences for our understanding of genius, gender, the history of Western art, and the practice of art history today. My talk is based on my recently published book, Vermeer’s Family Secrets. Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice (Routledge, 2009).


Keywords: Vermeer, Family, Secrets, Models, Chronology, Maria Vermeer, Apprentice, Genius, Gender, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Girl with a Red Hat
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Benjamin Binstock

Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union
New York, NY, USA

Benjamin Binstock earned his Ph.D. in Art History at Columbia University, after study in Aix-en-Provence, Berkeley, Berlin, and Amsterdam. He was a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the American Academy of Berlin, and has taught at Columbia, New York University, CUNY, and presently at the Cooper Union.I have been fortunate to teach a wide variety of courses on the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Northern and Southern Renaissance and Baroque art history, surveys, theory and criticism. As a teacher and scholar, I try to combine provocative questioning and fastidious philology to address central questions of our discipline as a means to establish an ongoing dialogue about art, history.

Ref: A09P0565