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Vermeer Exhibit Opens in Dutch Old Master’s Homeland

March 1, 1996

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ An exhibit of paintings by the Dutch Old Master Johannes Vermeer, which drew enormous crowds during its stay at the National Gallery in Washington, opened Friday in the artist’s homeland.

The show of 22 paintings _ out of the 39 attributed to Vermeer _ is the first to gather so many of his works since the painter died in 1675.

Each painting is a masterpiece of mood, perspective and light. Many show women quietly going about their domestic tasks _ making lace, reading or writing letters, playing an instrument _ but infuse their subjects with grace and contemplativeness that give them universal appeal.

Among the most famous paintings on display are ``Girl with a Pearl Earring,″ a portrait of a pale young woman in an exotic turban looking over her shoulder, her lips slightly parted; ``View of Delft″, a landscape under a cloudy sky that bathes the town’s principal church in golden light; and ``Woman in Blue Reading a Letter″, in which the subject faces the diffuse light of a stained-glass window, eagerly reading what is believed to be a love letter.

``I think Vermeer provides something important to the human psyche, a kind of introspection,″ said Arthur Wheelock, curator of Northern European Baroque Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

The show drew 330,000 people to the National Gallery during its Nov. 12-Feb.11 stay, even though the gallery had to shut down for 20 of the 90 viewing days because of the federal budget crisis and two snowstorms.

All the advance tickets are sold out for the show’s three-month run at the Mauritshuis museum, which will be open until midnight some days to accommodate the estimated 350,000 visitors. A small number of tickets are also available each day at the museum at a cost of $13 each.

Born in 1632 in the nearby town of Delft, Vermeer has been dubbed ``The Sphinx of Delft″ because so little is known about his artistic development.

He started his career as a painter of historical and biblical scenes, and was an art dealer and cafe owner in Delft, where he stayed for most of his life. By the 1660s he had established a reputation as an innovative artist, concentrating on scenes of daily life.

Recent investigations of the pictures by Jorgen Wadum, who restored ``View of Delft″ and ``Girl with a Pearl Earring,″ have provided a clue about Vermeer’s accuracy in perspective.

In many of Vermeer’s paintings, Wadum found small pinholes in the vanishing-point _ the point at which parallel lines receding from the observer converge _ suggesting the artist used thread to make the perspectives precise.

The exhibit is a joint effort between the National Gallery and the Mauritshuis museum. The paintings are on loan from American and European museums. One is from the collection of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

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