A Rare Vermeer Comes to Boston

Thanks to the generosity of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MFA had the unparalleled opportunity to exhibit a beautiful and rare painting: Johannes Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. For a limited time only, this work was on view in the Matthew and Edna Goodrich Brown Gallery along with a special installation of the MFA’s Dutch genre paintings.

Vermeer’s paintings often feature women in domestic interiors but, unlike other Dutch genre scenes, they lack a clear narrative. Rather, the subject becomes the quality and workings of light, its magical reflections rendered in smooth, highly finished brushwork. In Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, the room’s fashionable furnishings and the woman’s attire indicate her elevated social standing; the silver pitcher and washbasin evoke innocence, purity, and cleanliness.

Surely one of the most famous and beloved artists of all time, Vermeer recently captured the popular imagination because of a spate of novels fictionalizing his life and subjects. And, while Rembrandt’s body of work consists of several hundred paintings, drawings, and prints, only about thirty-five works by Vermeer are extant. As these paintings are concentrated in just a few collections and rarely travel, this MFA special event was an exceptional opportunity for visitor’s to discover one of Vermeer’s finest works.