A painting said to be a copy of a lost work by Johannes Vermeer is to be unveiled in Antwerp next week. A Young Woman with a Wine Glass and a Musician playing a Tenor Recorder, possibly dating from the early 1660s, will be hung in the city's Keizerskapel.
Jean-Pierre De Bruyn, the chapel’s curator, says that details within the composition suggest that it is “likely” that the picture is based on an unknown Vermeer. Only around 36 pictures by the Delft master survive, with inventory records suggesting that a handful of works have been lost. Only one early copy of a known Vermeer is extant: a late 17th-century version of Kenwood House’s The Guitar Player at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Details of De Bruyn’s claim have just been published by Codart, an international network of curators of Dutch and Flemish art. The Keizerskapel, dating from the 1510s, is a small church in the historic centre of Antwerp. Acquired by De Bruyn in 2008, it is open to visitors.
A Young Woman with a Wine Glass and a Musician playing a Tenor Recorder, painted on canvas, is coming on loan from an unnamed Brussels collector. No details of the provenance are being released, but it is understood that the picture was recently acquired in a Belgian auction.
De Bruyn points out that a similar white faience jug appears in Vermeer’s Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman (early 1660s, Royal Collection, London) and A Gentlemen and a Lady with Wine (1658-60, Berlin Museums). The woman’s dress in the Brussels painting is also close to that in the Berlin Vermeer. De Bruyn also notes the similarities in the woman’s right hand (and especially her little finger) with the sitter in The Guitar Player (around 1672, Kenwood House, London). He sees the chairs in the background of the Brussels picture as “very Vermeer-like”, as is the typical grey wall.
Sceptics will argue that these are features which appear in the work of Vermeer’s contemporaries, such as Pieter de Hooch and Gabriel Metsu. The faces of the two figures in the Brussels painting are unlike those of Vermeer, particularly that of the man. De Bruyn argues that the Brussels picture has been subjected to retouching, which has probably distorted the facial features.
A Young Woman with a Wine Glass and a Musician playing a Tenor Recorder has remained unknown to art historians. De Bruyn is therefore awaiting the reaction of Vermeer specialists when it goes on show in the Keizerskapel (17 June-17 July), which has reopened after the coronavirus closure. Visitors need to book tickets on the Flemish “blind date” website.