Sunday, September 27, 2015

Come for the Pope, stay for the art?

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through December 1, 2015

I went over to the National Gallery on Friday to see this visiting Vermeer painting, and I was not alone.  A very large crowd of people greeted me, both in the room where this work is hanging and at the Caillebotte show, which I re-visited briefly.  The Caillebotte show closes next Sunday, so perhaps it was just a rush of people eager to catch it before it leaves, but I wondered if perhaps these were people who had flocked to Washington to see the Pope and decided to see some art after he decamped to New York?  Whatever the reason, it was busy and then some.

This Vermeer piece is on loan through the end of November from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  It's not been seen in the United States since the mid-1990s, when it made up part of the big Vermeer show here at the National Gallery, and it's been restored in the years since.  Even if you saw it before, it's worth another look now.

There's the effect of the light from the window, of course; this is a Vermeer we're talking about after all.  There's also the lovely blue color of the woman's smock, along with the darker blues of the chairs and the rod holding down the tapestry on the wall.  Looking at the woman, I wondered if she were pregnant?  Perhaps it's just her dress.

I noticed that what I call the "Mona Lisa effect" was a bit in evidence in the room where the painting was hanging.  All the attention was directed to this piece, and the other items got short shrift.  Not so much as in the room in the Louvre where the Mona Lisa hangs (all those other wonderful Leonardos, and no one gives them so much as a glance), but still, most of the attention was on the "Woman in Blue."  I suppose this is understandable, considering that this painting is only visiting, and the other works we will have always with us, but still...

Verdict: There are so few Vermeer paintings in the world, that any time you get to see one, you should do so.

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