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Johannes Vermeer, "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter", c. 1663, oil on canvas, 46.6 x 39.1 cm (18 3/8 x 15 3/8 in.), Rijksmuseum. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest).

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has lent one of its great treasures—Johannes Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (c. 1663)—to the National Gallery of Art in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Johannes Vermeer exhibition, which opened here in November 1995 before traveling to the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, in March 1996. 

This luminous masterpiece, recently restored at the Rijksmuseum, will be displayed from September 19, 2015, through December 1, 2016, in the Dutch and Flemish Cabinet Galleries. It will hang with Vermeer paintings from the Gallery's own collection, including Woman Holding a Balance (c. 1664) and Girl with a Red Hat (c. 1665/1666)—the latter newly returned after being featured in Small Treasures, an exhibition shown in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Birmingham, Alabama—as well as Girl with a Flute (1665–1675), attributed to Vermeer. 

"Like many of Vermeer's paintings, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter has a calm and reflective mood, but it also leaves much for the viewer to decipher about the woman's emotions and the letter's contents," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are thankful to the Rijksmuseum for this generous loan to mark an extraordinary cultural event." 

The installation is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The curator is Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., the Gallery's longtime curator of northern baroque painting and a renowned Vermeer expert. The Gallery's third painting by Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665), will be on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, during the installation in Washington. 

Little is known about Vermeer (1632–1675), whose paintings have been hailed as some of the supreme achievements of the Dutch golden age. In 1995 and 1996, Johannes Vermeer, the first exhibition ever devoted solely to the Delft master's art, featured 21 of the existing 35 works known to have been painted by him. The paintings were drawn from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Aside from Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, other masterpieces on display were Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665/1670) and View of Delft (c. 1660–1661), both from the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. 

That intimate, once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibition drew accolades from media worldwide and attracted long lines of visitors, many of whom braved the freezing temperatures and snow that enveloped Washington that winter. Two extended federal government shutdowns and an enormous blizzard that closed the Gallery for days only heightened public interest in this remarkable event. 

The 1995–1996 Vermeer exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art and the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. Curators were Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., and Frederik J. Duparc, then director of the Mauritshuis.

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Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, detail, c. 1663, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest).