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A Vermeer is Coming Here!

One of only 35 paintings in the world by the Dutch master comes to Norfolk for a six-week exhibition.

NORFOLK, Va. (October 20, 2016) — The Chrysler Museum of Art offers visitors a rare opportunity to see—in person—one of the great masterworks of art by one of the world’s most admired, yet mysterious painters: Johannes Vermeer of Delft.

A Lady Writing, ca. 1665, is generously being lent to the Chrysler by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., for a limited six-week engagement. The jewel-like painting will be on view to the public from Tuesday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, upstairs in Gallery 202 of the Museum’s Dalis Foundation Galleries. Admission is free.

Paintings by Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) are exceptionally rare—only 35 are known to exist and most of those are in major museum collections. The National Gallery of Art’s unusually rich collection is home to three works that scholars have firmly attributed to the great 17th-century Dutch master. This one, a 1962 memorial gift to the NGA from the children of the great New York art collector Horace Havemeyer, is among the most superb in any collection.

Vermeer often depicted beautiful women working at everyday activities in their homes. They are typically shown in his signature refined cast of light. Vermeer experimented with the effects of light, mathematics, and optics to enhance the realism of his laborious works. Unlike his contemporary Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) in nearby Amsterdam, Vermeer was little known or appreciated in his day. He worked mainly for a single patron who amassed at least 20 of his paintings, including the window-lit A Lady Writing.

“The beguiling expression of the young lady is the result of Vermeer’s meticulous care in composition and pose,” says Lloyd DeWitt, the Chrysler Museum’s Chief Curator and Irene Leache Curator of European Art. “Adorned in the fashionable style of the day—hair ribbons, pear-drop pearl earrings, and a fur-trimmed jacket—she meets our gaze with a slight smile while writing a letter,” he says. “The nib of her quill pen is still on the paper.”

Her charming approach indicates she is writing a love letter, a common subject of Vermeer’s letter-writing scenes, DeWitt says. Sometimes the artist would paint separate canvases of separated lovers, the pair connected only by the letters they are shown composing and the exquisite cast of light for which Vermeer is renowned. In this painting, DeWitt notes, the artist even incorporates a witty visual suggestion about the beauty and value of her writing—a string of pearls sits right below where her words of love flow from her pen onto the paper. “Vermeer’s mesmerizing canvas holds a mystery for us, and it will captivate any visitor,” DeWitt says.

“It’s never an everyday experience to see a Vermeer painting in person,” says Chrysler Museum Director Erik Neil. “With almost modern simplicity, Vermeer combined an absolute mastery of color, space, and air with a provocative representation of human interaction. Thanks to our strong relationship with the National Gallery of Art, visitors to the Chrysler this fall can witness something truly extraordinary.”

“We are so delighted that this wonderful masterpiece by Vermeer will bring so much pleasure to the many art lovers visiting the Chrysler Museum of Art,” says Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., Curator of Northern Baroque Paintings at the National Gallery of Art and a world-recognized expert on 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art.

A Lady Writing is the second Vermeer to visit the Chrysler in recent years. In 2010, the Museum hosted Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, a ca. 1670–1672 oil painting loaned by the Leiden Gallery in New York. The tiny canvas, then recently rediscovered and attributed to the artist, was a highlight of the Chrysler’s Dutch Golden Age Paintings, an intimate exhibition of privately held gems. The show also featured works by the other two greatest masters of 17th-century Dutch painting, Rembrandt van Rijn and Frans Hals—but marked the first time a work by Vermeer had been publicly displayed in Virginia.

Special Vermeer Lecture by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr.
Sunday, November 20 | 2 p.m. | Kaufman Theater | Free
Revel in the beauty of Johannes Vermeer’s A Lady Writing, one of only 35 works by the venerable 17th-century Dutch painter. Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., Curator of Northern Baroque Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, guides you through the old master’s work in this very special Kaufman Theater lecture. Seating is limited.

Vermeer Gallery Talk by Chief Curator Lloyd DeWitt
Thursday, December 8 | 2 p.m. | Free
Look deeper into the subjects and the psyches in Johannes Vermeer’s paintings in this very special gallery talk by our resident expert in 17th-century Dutch art, Lloyd DeWitt. Meet at the Welcome Desk in Huber Court.

Verbeer Pilsner
In honor of this art event, the Chrysler has partnered with Smartmouth Brewing Company to present Verbeer Pilsner. This low-ABV lager is as delicate as the finest Vermeer, faintly spicy and effervescent, with the reassuring breadiness of hearth and home. European noble hops and herbal undertones give this straw-colored beer a mellow and memorable sweetness reminiscent of the best Dutch Golden Age paintings.

Verbeer Pilsner will be available exclusively at the Chrysler Museum of Art throughout the six weeks the Vermeer painting is on view. It will be featured at Wisteria, the Museum’s restaurant, and, as supplies last, at the cash bar for the Chrysler’s monthly Third Thursday evening events on November 17 and December 15 (admission is $5, free for Museum Members).

For additional program information, see the Museum website at

The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums, with a nationally recognized collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The core of the Chrysler’s collection comes from Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., an avid art collector who donated thousands of objects from his private collection to the Museum. In the years since Chrysler’s death in 1988, the Museum has dramatically enhanced its collection and extended its ties with the Norfolk community. The Museum, expanded in 2014 to add additional gallery spaces and amenities for visitors, now has growing collections in many areas. The Chrysler also mounts an ambitious schedule of visiting exhibitions and educational programs and events each season.

In 2011, the Chrysler opened a full-service glass Studio adjacent to the Museum. This state-of-the-art facility features a 560-pound capacity glass furnace, a full hot shop, a flameworking studio, nine annealing ovens, and a coldworking shop. In addition, the Chrysler Museum of Art administers two historic houses in downtown Norfolk: the Moses Myers House and the Willoughby-Baylor House.

The Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, and its Perry Glass Studio at 745 Duke St., are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

The Historic Houses on East Freemason Street are open weekends. General admission is free at all venues.


Contact Amber Kennedy
(757) 340-7425