Luci LaSombra Vermeer Gallery

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The Concert

Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

69x63 1665-66 (Stolen)

A group of three play music together, voice, lute and harpsichord, and apparently all is innocent. There are two pastoral scenes, one painted on the lid of the harpsichord, one on wall; the latter includes a dead tree, a hint that all is not as perfect as we might assume. While the scene is serene and still, there is movement from the upraised hand of the singer beating time. The painting seems quite similar to The Music Lesson, even to the black and white floor tiles and the rich red carpet draped over a table to provide a foreground.

But the painting at the upper right is not another pastoral scene, it is Dirck van Baburen's The Procuress. Are we to think that Vermeer, who controls every square millimeter of his canvases, did not realize the message? Or are we to think that the lute-player is selling the sexual services of singer or harsichordist?

Vermeer painted his own Procuress, and used the Baburen picture in his Lady Seated at the Virginals. It is presumed that the Baburen picture hung in Vermeer's house, for it is mentioned in the inventory of his mother-in-law's house from 1641: A painting wherein a procuress points to the hand. It is now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Vermeer's The Concert was one of eleven paintings stolen from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston, on March 18, 1990, and is not yet recovered.


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