The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has announced loans of important paintings by Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn for its upcoming landmark exhibition Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer (October 11, 2015–January 18, 2016). Vermeer’s The Astronomer (1668) will be on loan from the Musée du Louvre in Paris, while the artist’s A Lady Writing (about 1665) will be on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Works by Rembrandt in the exhibition will include The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633) on loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the full-length, life-size Portrait of Andries de Graeff (1639) from Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel in Germany. They will join the two seated full-length portraits by Rembrandt from the MFA’s collection, Reverend Johannes Elison and Maria Bockenolle (both 1634).

A Lady Writing portrays a privileged woman engaged in the art of letter writing, associated in 17th-century Holland with a certain level of education and wealth. Belonging to the same elite world, The Astronomer represents a “gentleman amateur” engaged in scientific inquiry that had relevance to the maritime navigation crucial to the mercantile interests of the young country. The Shipbuilder and his Wife shows a particularly successful and wealthy professional charged with providing ships to this nation of seafarers, while the Portrait of Andries de Graeff depicts a confident member of the Amsterdam ruling class who amassed one of the largest fortunes in the city. This painting belongs to the section of the exhibition dedicated to Regents and Wealthy Merchants, which also includes three seminal portraits by the great Haarlem master, Frans Hals.

The exhibition will feature 75 carefully selected 17th-century Dutch paintings—all of the works with the exception of the MFA’s pair of Rembrandt portraits on loan from important European and American public and private collections. These masterpieces include portraits, genre scenes, landscapes and seascapes by Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch and Gerrit Dou, among others, displayed in categories broadly arranged according to the three primary social classes—upper, middle and lower. To further illustrate the distinctions among the classes, three tables will be set with decorative arts, similar objects that would have been used by each of the classes but that diverge in material and decoration, including salt cellars, candle sticks, mustard pots and linens.

Organized by the MFA, this groundbreaking exhibition is accompanied by a publication that features essays by a team of distinguished Dutch scholars and exhibition curator Ronni Baer, the MFA’s William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator of Paintings.

Images of the following works available here.

  • A Lady Writing, Johannes Vermeer
  • The Shipbuilder and his Wife, Rembrandt van Rijn
  • Reverend Johannes Elison and Maria Bockenolle, Rembrandt van Rijn

March 2, 2015