Currently on display at the National Gallery are a handful of 17th century instruments alongside Dutch paintings. The Gallery is celebrating summer with a look into the role of music in society from group performances to intimate interactions between student and teacher.
Although small, the exhibition gives a fair look at Dutch paintings of the era. We are first introduced to music as memento mori, in images adorned with skulls. The viewer is then swiftly moved into rooms which celebrate the joy of music rather than any associations with humanity and death, rather leisure and pleasure.
Until the final room we are only shown paintings by artists other than Vermeer. At first this made me a little cross, however, we are spoilt in the final gallery, which has been filled with five of the artist’s paintings. In this way, the curators have built us up to a climax at the end of the show.
My only disappointment would probably be the final gallery which explained the paint and work behind the paintings in terms of their support and pigments. However, as an art history student who knew much of this already, I can see how it may be beneficial to others.
The show while small is worthwhile visiting, if not for the paintings by Vermeer but for the lovely displays of 17th century lutes, citterns and virginals. On some days there are even musical performances to go along with the show, however I was not fortunate enough to visit on one of these days. Nevertheless, not to be missed in it’s final weeks!
Vermeer and Music is on display at National Gallery until 8 September