A hidden Cupid in Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, one of the world’s most well-known artworks, is set to resurface on the canvas after two and a half centuries at the back of a layer of paint. During restoration work, conservators found, to their surprise, that the naked determine—which dominates the top proper segment of the photograph—became overpainted lengthy after the artist’s death.
On the original canvas, the Cupid “photograph within a photo” hung on the wall in the back of the letter-reading woman. It was detected forty years ago with the aid of X-ray; however, students had constantly assumed that Vermeer himself painted over it, says Uta Neidhardt, the senior conservator at Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie. The choice to restore Cupid to work turned into taken after current laboratory exams mounted past doubt that the parent became overpainted a long time after Vermeer completed it.
“There turned into even a layer of dust above the original varnish at the Cupid, showing the portray were in its original nation for decades,” Neidhardt says. The overpainting also became barely darker than the shade Vermeer used inside his paintings’ historical past. She says the later artist had to make amends for the darkening varnish at the unique.
“This is the most sensational experience of my profession,” she says. “It makes it a one-of-a-kind painting.”
Produced in around 1657, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window has been in Dresden’s town collections because it was from 1742 and is one of just 35 artworks definitively attributed to Vermeer. The identical Cupid also features a Lady Standing at a Virginal inside the National Gallery in London. Scholars believe it can be a real image in Vermeer’s possession: a 1676 stock of his widow’s assets consists of mention of “a Cupid.”
Vermeer frequently referenced different works of art in his artwork as a tool to deliver supplementary facts or remarks. The Cupid portrayal is “the most effective clue suggesting a love story” within the painting, Neidhardt says. “The elements of disguise and concealment play a much less dominant role in these early paintings through Vermeer than the composition whose history turned into changed via another handled us to agree with.”
She concedes that a few viewers acquainted with the portrait earlier than its restoration may additionally miss the quiet historical past and introspective temper.
In 2017, Christoph Schölzel, Dresden’s painting restorer, began operating on Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Though in desirable circumstances, its floor became covered in a varnish that had darkened with age, turning the cool, subtle colorings of the painting yellowish. The first degree of Schölzel’s images focussed on disposing of this layer.
After laboratory exams at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and x-ray fluorescence examinations conducted with the support of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam confirmed that the overpainting was significantly more recent than the painting, the decision taken in early 2018 to do away with the later paint and disclose the Cupid. An outside panel of experts, including Ige Verslype at the Rijksmuseum and Arthur Wheelock at the National Gallery in Washington, advises on the restoration, funded with help from the Hata Foundation in Amsterdam and Tokyo.
Schölzel’s painstaking paintings call for a microscope and a scalpel, which lets him scrape off the overpaint without casting off the authentic varnish on Vermeer’s version of the portrait. The Cupid is to date about half of uncovered—its miles predicted that the work would require at least another 12 months. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window can be displayed in its contemporary, semi-restored nation from eight May to 16 June inside the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister within the Semperbau in Dresden.
Dresden possesses two Vermeer paintings, and they’re among the most critical and valuable treasures inside the city’s wealthy art collections. The second, The Procuress (1656), was restored between 2002 and 2004.