An expert’s guide to Johannes Vermeer: five must-read books (and a website) on the Dutch Old Master

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The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has secured an unprecedented 28 paintings by Johannes Vermeer for its blockbuster exhibition this month (10 February-4 June). Depending on which authority you chose to follow, there are only around three dozen paintings by the Dutch Old Master in existence. Despite the fame of works such as Girl with a Pearl Earring (around 1665), the artist remains somewhat of a mystery. To help amateurs and art history buffs alike, we recruited the exhibition’s two curators, Pieter Roelofs and Gregor J.M. Weber, to pick five books to help anyone get to grips with the life and work of Vermeer.

Vermeer of Delft: Complete Edition of the Paintings (1978) by Albert Blankert

Vermeer of Delft: Complete Edition of the Paintings (1978) by Albert Blankert

“Three months before the opening of our Vermeer exhibition, the prominent Vermeer expert Albert Blankert passed away. It is with the greatest respect, gratitude and appreciation for his work that we have dedicated the catalogue to him. Over the past 40 years, Blankert published several updated editions of his book. His strong connoisseurship and new and sometimes witty perspectives are exemplary for all of us.”

Johannes Vermeer (1995), exhibition catalogue by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr and Frederik J. Duparc

Johannes Vermeer (1995), exhibition catalogue by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr and Frederik J. Duparc

“The Vermeer exhibition curated by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr and Frederik J. Duparc in 1995-96 at the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is legendary and was the first time so many works by Vermeer were on display together. Technical research led by Jørgen Wadum and historiographical research by Ben Broos provided many new insights. With our exhibition, we stand on their shoulders.”

Vermeer’s A Lady Writing (1664-67) which can be found on the cover of Vermeer: The Complete Paintings (2008) by Walter Liedtke National Gallery of Art, Washington; Havemeyer gift

Vermeer: The Complete Paintings (2008) by Walter Liedtke

“This remains one of the most valuable publications on Vermeer. It was written by Walter Liedtke, the curator of Flemish and Dutch painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who tragically died in 2015. The catalogue of works is carefully edited and the image quality is excellent. Appendices on questions of the camera obscura, a selection of documents, and the provenance of the paintings make the book most valuable.”

The Lacemaker (1666-68) features on the cover of Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence (2011), edited by Marjorie E. Wieseman, with contributions by H. Perry Chapman and Wayne E. Franits Musée du Louvre

Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence (2011), edited by Marjorie E. Wieseman, with contributions by H. Perry Chapman and Wayne E. Franits

“The catalogue accompanying the exhibition Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 2011 offers an in-depth insight into the world of women in Vermeer’s time, but especially into his motifs and the particularities of their representation.”

Miffy x Vermeer (2023) by Dick Bruna

Miffy x Vermeer (2023) by Dick Bruna

“For Vermeer’s youngest fans, Miffy x Vermeer is a wonderful introduction to his art. Like his 17th-century predecessor, the late Dutch artist Dick Bruna was intrigued by intimate domestic scenes. As with Vermeer, simplicity plays an important role in his work. The book playfully invites both children and adults to look for similarities and differences between Bruna’s and Vermeer’s art.”

Vermeer’s View of Delft (1660-61) Mauritshuis

Essential Vermeer (2001-present) by Jonathan Janson

“One of the most consulted publications on Vermeer right now is not a printed book, but a website: Essential Vermeer. For more than 20 years, compiler and editor Jonathan Janson has managed to keep up with and share online all the new finds, ideas, publications and exhibitions surrounding Vermeer with boundless energy. As an artist, he shares his love for and knowledge of Vermeer with a wide audience of art historians and enthusiasts.”

Vermeer, Pieter Roelofs, Taco Dibbits and Gregor J. M. Weber, Thames and Hudson, 320pp, £50 (hb)

Vermeer, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 10 February-4 June

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