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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Johannes Vermeer/Girl with the Red Hat/c. 1665/1666,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/60 (accessed August 27, 2014).

 

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Overview

Girl with the Red Hat is one of Johannes Vermeer’s smallest works, and it is painted on panel rather than on his customary canvas. The girl has turned in her chair and interacts with the viewer through her direct gaze. Girl with the Red Hat is portrayed with unusual spontaneity and informality. The artist’s exquisite use of color is this painting’s most striking characteristic, for both its compositional and its psychological effects. Vermeer concentrated the two major colors in two distinct areas: a vibrant red for the hat and a sumptuous blue for the robe; he then used the intensity of the white cravat to unify the whole.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Vermeer also was an art dealer in Delft. There is no documentation of his artistic training or apprenticeship, but in 1653 he became a master in the Saint Luke’s Guild in Delft; he would serve as head of that guild four times in the 1660s and 1670s. Although he was well regarded in his lifetime, he was heavily in debt when he died in 1675. Only in the late nineteenth century did Vermeer achieve widespread fame for his intimate genre scenes and quiet cityscapes.

Entry

Girl with the Red Hat has a curious status among Vermeer scholars. Although this small panel painting is widely loved and admired, its attribution to Vermeer has been doubted, and even rejected, by some.[1] The attribution of this work has often been discussed in conjunction with the only other panel painting in Vermeer’s oeuvre, Girl with a Flute  [fig. 1], which has been often wrongly viewed as a pendant.[2] The emotional response elicited by Girl with the Red Hat is, indeed, different from that found in other of his paintings, for as the girl turns outward, with her mouth half opened, her eyes seem lit with expectancy. The lushness of her blue robes, the almost passionate flaming red of her hat, and the subtle interplay of green and rose tones in her face give her a vibrancy unique in Vermeer’s paintings. Unlike most of his figures, she does not exist in a cerebral, abstract world. Situated before a backdrop of a figured tapestry,[3] she communicates directly with us, both staring out and drawing us in.

The pose of a girl looking over her shoulder at the viewer is commonly found in Vermeer’s oeuvre, although in no other instance does she lean an arm on the back of a chair. Nevertheless, similar poses are found in the works of Vermeer’s contemporaries.[4] As he did in other works, including Woman Holding a Balance, Vermeer adjusted his forms to accommodate his composition. In actuality, the lion-head finials of the chair are too close to each other and are not correctly aligned. The left finial is much larger than the right one and is angled too far to the right. The top of the chair, if extended to the left finial, would intersect it above the bottom of the ring that loops through the lion’s mouth. The finials, moreover, face toward the viewer, whereas if they belonged to the chair upon which the girl sits, they should face toward her.[5] As in Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Young Man, only the back of the lion’s head should be visible.

The questions raised by the position of the chair and its spatial relationship to the girl have bothered observers of the painting in the past.[6] Interestingly, the spatial discrepancies are not really noticeable until one begins analyzing the painting very closely. Visually, the spatial organization works; Vermeer succeeded in integrating his figure with the chair and at the same time in using the chair to help establish the specific mood he sought.[7]

Despite similarities in the way Vermeer adjusted his forms for compositional emphasis, the Woman Holding a Balance and this painting are undeniably different. Whereas the Woman Holding a Balance is an involved composition, imbued with complex forms and symbolism, the Girl with the Red Hat is no more than a bust, portrayed with a feeling of spontaneity and informality that is unique in the artist’s oeuvre. It is as though this small painting were a study, or an experiment. Particularly striking are the light reflections on the right lion-head finial, which have the diffused characteristic of unfocused points of light in a photograph, called “halation of highlights.” It is highly unlikely that Vermeer could have achieved this effect without having witnessed it in a camera obscura.[8] Indeed, it may well be that in this painting Vermeer actually attempted to capture the impression of an image seen in a camera obscura.

The hypothesis that Vermeer might have used a camera obscura while painting the Girl with the Red Hat was convincingly argued by Charles Seymour.[9] He demonstrated, with the aid of excellent experimental photographs, the close similarity of Vermeer’s painterly treatment of the lion-head finial and an unfocused image seen in a camera obscura ([fig. 2] and [fig. 3]). Vermeer exploited this effect to animate his surface and to distinguish different depths of field.[10]

One of the many misconceptions about Vermeer’s painting style that has affected theories regarding his use of the camera obscura, including that of Seymour, is that Vermeer was a realist in the strictest sense, that his paintings faithfully record models, rooms, and furnishings he saw before him.[11] As is evident in all his other mature works, the compositions are the product of intense control and refinement. Figures and their environments are subtly interlocked through perspective, proportions, and color. This same mentality must have dictated his artistic procedure, whether he viewed his scene directly or through an optical device such as a camera obscura. As has been seen, even in this small Girl with the Red Hat, which perhaps of all of Vermeer’s images most closely resembles the effects of a camera obscura, he shifted and adjusted his forms to maintain his compositional balance. Thus, even though he must have referred to an image from a camera obscura when painting Girl with the Red Hat and sought to exploit some of its optical effects, including the intensified colors, accentuated contrasts of light and dark, and circles of confusion, it is most unlikely that he traced the image directly on the panel.[12] The possibility that he traced his more complex compositions is even more remote.

Vermeer’s handling of diffused highlights in his paintings, including View of Delft (Mauritshuis, The Hague)[13] suggests that he used them creatively as well, and not totally in accordance with their actual appearance in a camera obscura. In Girl with the Red Hat he has accentuated the diffuse yellow highlights on the girl’s blue robes, whereas in a camera obscura reflections off unfocused cloth create blurred images. He even painted some of his diffused highlights in the shadows, where they would not appear in any circumstance.

The actual manner in which he applied highlights is comparable to that seen in The Art of Painting, c. 1667 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).[14] Not only do the specular highlights on the finial share similarities with those on the chandelier in the latter work, but also the diffused highlights on the robe in Girl with the Red Hat are comparable to those on the cloth hanging over the front edge of the table in the Vienna painting. These similarities, as well as the comparably generalized forms of the girls’ heads in the two paintings, argue for a close chronological relationship. It seems probable that both works were executed around 1666 to 1667, slightly before The Astronomer (Louvre, Paris), which is dated 1668.

Vermeer usually painted on canvas, and it is interesting to speculate on the rationale behind his decision to paint on panel in this particular instance.[15] The explanation may simply be that for such a small study panel was a more appropriate support than canvas. The choice of support, however, may also relate to the use of the camera obscura. He may have chosen a hard, smooth surface to lend to his small study the sheen of an image seen in a camera obscura as it is projected onto a ground glass or tautly stretched oiled paper.

Vermeer selected for his painting a panel that had already been used. The image of an unfinished, bust-length portrait of a man with a wide-brimmed hat lies under Girl with the Red Hat. It is visible in the X-radiograph [see X-radiography] of the panel ([fig. 4]) and with infrared reflectography ([fig. 5]). Because the man is in the reverse position of the girl, it is possible to examine his face in the X-radiograph without too much interference from the surface image ([fig. 6] and [fig. 7]). The painting style of this face is very different from that of Vermeer. The face is modeled with a number of bold rapid strokes that have not been blended together. The infrared reflectogram composite reveals a great flourish of strokes to the right of the face that represented the man’s long curly hair.

Although it is impossible to attribute a painting to an artist solely on the basis of an X-radiograph, certain characteristics of the handling of the paint in the underlying image are remarkably similar to those seen in paintings by Carel Fabritius (Dutch, c. 1622 - 1654). The small scale of the panel, the subject matter of a male bust, and the rough bold strokes and impasto with which the head is painted are all features found in studies by Fabritius from the late 1640s, such as Man with a Helmet in the Groninger Museum, Groningen.[16] At his death Vermeer owned two tronies by Fabritius.[17] Considering that Vermeer was an art dealer and may have studied under Fabritius, he could well have owned others during his lifetime.[18]

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

upper center of tapestry in ligature: IVM

  • Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Pieter Claesz van Ruijven [1624-1674], Delft; possibly by inheritance to his wife, Maria de Knuijt [d. 1681]; possibly by inheritance to her daughter, Magdalena van Ruijven [1655-1682], Delft;[1] possibly by inheritance to her husband, Jacob Abrahamsz. Dissius [1653-1695], Delft; (sale, Amsterdam, 16 May 1696, probably no. 39 or 40).[2] Lafontaine collection, Paris; (his sale, Hôtel de Bouillon, Paris, 10-12 December 1822 [postponed from 27-29 November], no. 28). Baron Louis Marie Baptiste Atthalin [1784-1856], Colmar; by inheritance to his nephew and adopted son, Louis Marie Félix Laurent-Atthalin [1818-1893], Colmar and Paris; by inheritance to his son, Baron Gaston Marie Laurent-Atthelin [1848-1912], Paris and Château des Moussets, Limay, Seine-et-Oise; by inheritance to his wife, Baroness Marguerite Chaperon Laurent-Atthalin [1854-1931], Paris;[3] (M. Knoedler & Co., New York and London); sold November 1925 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1925
Loan Exhibition of Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1925, no. 1.
1927
[Loan exhibition for the opening of the new building], Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1927, no catalogue.
1928
A Loan Exhibition of Twelve Masterpieces of Painting, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1928, no. 12.
1995
Johannes Vermeer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1995-1996, no. 14, repro.
1998
A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 60.
1999
Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, brochure, fig. 11.
2001
Vermeer and the Delft School, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The National Gallery, London, 2001, no. 74, repro.
2012
Vermeer: Il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2012-2013, no. 49, color repro.

Bibliography

1866
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Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 1(1907):602, 46a.
1913
Hale, Philip L. Jan Vermeer of Delft. Boston, 1913: 359.
1925
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1925
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1925
Borenius, Tancred. "The New Vermeer." Apollo 2 (July-December 1925): 125–126, repro.
1925
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1927
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R. "Neuerwerbungen amerikanischer Sammler." Der Cicerone 20 (1928): 44.
1929
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1929
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1931
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1932
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1933
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1935
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1937
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1937
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1937
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1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
1939
Plietzsch, Eduard. Vermeer van Delft. Munich, 1939: 29, 51, 62, no. 38, pl. 26.
1939
Vries, Ary Bob de. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Bibliotheek der Nederlandsche Kunst. Amsterdam, 1939: 48, 89, no. 29, pl. 53.
1940
Bloch, Vitale. "Vermeer." Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 17 (1940): 3-8.
1940
Goldscheider, Ludwig. The Paintings of Jan Vermeer. Oxford and New York, 1940: 14, pl. 39.
1941
Held, Julius S. "Masters of Northern Europe, 1430-1660, in the National Gallery." Art News 40, no. 8 (June 1941): 15, repro.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art., Washington, 1941: 208, no. 53.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 33.
1942
Mir, M. Jan Vermeer de Delft. Biblioteca argentina de arte. Buenos Aires, 1942: 62, no. 41, repro.
1944
Encina, Juan de la (Ricardo Gutiérrez Abascal). Las pinturas de la Galería nacional de arte de Washington. Mexico City, 1944: 58, color repro.
1945
Vries, Ary Bob de. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Basel, 1945: 58, 117, no. 29, pl. 54.
1945
Wilenski, Reginald Howard. Dutch Painting. Revised ed. London, 1945: 178, 187.
1946
Blum, André. Vermeer et Thoré-Burger. Geneva, 1946: 195, repro.
1948
Bertram, Anthony. Jan Vermeer of Delft. London, 1948: repro. xxxvii.
1948
Vries, Ary Bob de. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Translated by Robert Allen. Revised ed. London and New York, 1948: 40, 90, pl. 22.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 94, repro.
1949
Review of Professor van Thiereu [sic] Jan Vermeer of Delft (London, 1949). In Apollo, (January 1950): 30.
1949
Thienen, Frithjof van. Jan Vermeer of Delft. Masters of Painting. New York, 1949: 23, no. 25, repro.
1950
Swillens, P. T. A. Johannes Vermeer: Painter of Delft, 1632–1675. Translated by C.M. Breuning-Williamson. Utrecht, 1950: 65, no. G.
1950
T., R.S. "Art and Collector Books: Review of Frithjof van Thienen, Jan Vermeer of Delft." Apollo (January 1950): 30.
1952
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1952
Fierens, Paul. Jan Vermeer de Delft, 1632-1675. Paris, 1952: no. 48, repro.
1952
Gowing, Lawrence. Vermeer. London, 1952: 21, 55-56, 145-147, no. xxvii, pl. 57.
1952
Malraux, André, ed. Vermeer de Delft. Paris, 1952: 21-22, repro. (detail), 94, 96, no. xxvii, 104, color repro.
1954
Bloch, Vitale. Tutta la Pittura di Vermeer di Delft. Milan, 1954: 27-28, 35, pl. 56.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 10, repro.
1958
Henno, Louis, and Jean Decoen. Vermeer de Delft: une affaire scandaleuse de vrais et de faux tableaux. Lecahier des arts. Bruxelles, 1958: 32.
1960
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 38, 39, color repro.
1961
Greindl, Edith. Jan Vermeer, 1632-1675. Milan, 1961: 38, color repro.
1961
Reitlinger, Gerald. The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices 1760-1960. (Vol. 1 of The Economics of Taste). London, 1961: 484.
1962
Brion, Marcel. Vermeer. London, 1962: 55, color repro., 61.
1962
Gowing, Lawrence. Jan Vermeer. New York, 1962: 65, 76, color repro.
1963
Bloch, Vitale. All the Paintings of Jan Vermeer. Translated by Michael Kitson. The Complete Library of World Art 15. New York, 1963: 27-28, 35, pl. 56.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 315, repro., 346.
1964
Seymour, Charles, Jr. "Dark Chamber and Light-Filled Room: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura." Art Bulletin 46, no. 3 (1964): 323-331.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 135.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2: 260, color repro., as The Girl with a Red Hat.
1966
Descargues, Pierre. Vermeer. Translated by James Emmons. Geneva, 1966: 132-133, color repro. 103.
1966
Emiliani, Andrea. Vermeer (1632-1675). Milan, 1966: 9, 30, 31 pl. 11.
1966
Rosenberg, Jakob, Seymour Slive, and Engelbert H. ter Kuile. Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600–1800. Pelican History of Art. Baltimore, 1966: 122.
1967
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1967
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1968
Kühn, Hermann. "A Study of the Pigments and the Grounds Used by Jan Vermeer." Report and Studies in the History of Art 2 (1968-1969): 195, no. 21.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 122, repro.
1969
Mittelstädt, Kuno. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Welt der Kunst. Berlin, 1969: 15, 44, color repro.
1970
Walicki, Michal. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Dresden, 1970: 39-40, 125, fig. 56.
1973
Fahy, Everett, and Francis John Bagott Watson. The Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5: Paintings, drawings, sculpture. New York, 1973: 313-314, repro.
1973
Mistler, Jean. Vermeer. Collection Le Peintre et l’Homme. Paris, 1973: 45-46, no. 29, color repro.
1973
Sonnenburg, Hubertus von. "Technical Comments." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31, no. 4 (Summer 1973): unpaginated, figs. 93 and 94 (details).
1973
Walsh, John, Jr. "Vermeer." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31, no. 4 (Summer 1973): unpaginated, figs. 37 and 38 (details).
1974
Grimme, Ernst Günther. Jan Vermeer van Delft. Cologne, 1974: 61, no. 21, fig. 13.
1975
Blankert, Albert. Johannes Vermeer van Delft, 1632-1675. Utrecht, 1975: 108-110, 167-168, 202, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 362, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 304, no. 407, repro.
1976
Wright, Christopher. Vermeer. London, 1976: 12, 46, repro. no. 20, 78, 81, 84-85.
1977
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Perspective, Optics, and Delft Artists around 1650. Outstanding dissertations in the fine arts. New York, 1977: 292, 298, repro. 99.
1978
Blankert, Albert. Vermeer of Delft: Complete Edition of the Paintings. Oxford, 1978: 73-74, 172, cat. B.3, color repro.
1978
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Zur Technik zweier Bilder, die Vermeer zugeschrieben sind." Maltechnik-Restauro 84 (1978): 242-257, repros.
1981
Slatkes, Leonard J. Vermeer and His Contemporaries. New York, 1981: 97, color repro.
1981
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Jan Vermeer. New York, 1981: 39, 47, 130, color pl. 34, 132, 144, 156, 162 nn. 93-96.
1983
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Northern Baroque." In Encyclopedia of World Art 17 vols. Bernard S. Myers, ed. Palatine, Illinois, 1983: 16 (supplement):198, pl. 45, color repro.
1984
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1984
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1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 304, no. 402, color repro.
1985
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1985
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1985
Pelfrey, Robert H., and Mary Hall-Pelfrey. Art and Mass Media. New York, 1985: fig. 8.
1986
Aillaud, Gilles, Albert Blankert, and John Michael Montias. Vermeer. Paris, 1986: 200, 201, cat. b3, repro.
1986
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1988
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1989
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1990
Liedtke, Walter A. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and their Ideals." In Great Dutch Paintings from America. Edited by Ben P.J. Broos. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 51.
1990
Liedtke, Walter A. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and their Ideals." In Great Dutch Paintings from America. Edited by Ben P.J. Broos. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Zwolle, 1990: 51.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 63, 67, color repro.
1992
Grèce, Michel de. Portrait et séduction. Paris, 1992: 145, repro.
1993
Schneider, Norbert. Jan Vermeer 1632-1675: Verhüllung der Gefühle. Cologne, 1993: 72, 95, no. 73, repro.
1994
Knafou, Rémy. Vermeer: mystère du quotidien. Paris, 1994: 9, repro.
1995
Bailey, Martin. Vermeer. London, 1995: 88-89, color repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Ben P. J. Broos. Johannes Vermeer. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, 1995: no. 14, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 382-387, color repro. 383.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Vermeer and the Art of Painting. New Haven, 1995: 119, 120 color fig. 84, 121-127, detail and conservation figs. 85, 87, 88, 89a, 89b, no. A23, repro. 180.
1995
Wright, Christopher. Vermeer: catalogue raisonné. London, 1995: no. 21, 42-44, color repro.
1996
Chalumeau, Jean Luc. Vermeer, 1632-1675. Découvrons l'art - XVIIe siècle 1. Paris, 1996: no.16, repro.
1996
Larsen, Erik. Jan Vermeer. Translated by Tania Gargiulo. Biblioteca d'arte. Florence, 1996: no. A 7, 119, repro.
1996
Netta, Irene. Das Phänomen Zeit bei Jan Vermeer van Delft: eine Analyse der innerbildlichen Zeitstrukturen seiner ein- und mehrfigurigen Interieurbilder. Studien zur Kunstgeschichte 105. Hildesheim, 1996: 251, fig. 17.
1997
Gowing, Lawrence. Vermeer. 3rd ed. London, 1997: no. 57, 145-147, repro.
1997
Robinson, James. "Vermeer." Classical Realism Journal 3, no. 2 (1997): 4, 13 fig. 1.
1997
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Vermeer: The Complete Works. New York, 1997: 50-51, no. 23, repro.
1998
Gifford, Melanie E. "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique." In Vermeer Studies. Edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. Studies in the History of Art 55 (1998): 185-199, fig. 3.
1998
McLellan, Diana. "Really Big Shows." Washingtonian 33, no. 11 (August 1998): 70.
1998
Montias, John Michael. "Recent archival research on Vermeer." in Vermeer Studies. Edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. Studies in the History of Art 55. Washington, 1998: 185-199.
1998
Robinson, James. "Vermeer, Part III." Classical Realism Journal 4, no. 2 (1998): 58-67, repro. back cover.
1998
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 68, no. 60.
1999
Sweet, Christopher. The Essential Johannes Vermeer. New York, 1999: 80-81, repro.
1999
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Mari Griffith. Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting. Exhibition brochure. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1999: fig. 11.
1999
Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 208, color repro.
2000
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat. Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. London, 2000: 202, no. 21, repro.
2001
Franits, Wayne E., ed. The Cambridge companion to Vermeer. Cambridge, England, and New York, 2001: 163, 172, 173, 180, pl. 22.
2001
Liedtke, Walter A., Michiel Plomp, and Axel Rüger. Vermeer and the Delft school. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery, London. New Haven, 2001: no. 74, 386-389, repro.
2001
Netta, Irene. Vermeer's world: an artist and his town. Pegasus Library. Munich and New York, 2001: 33, 86, repro.
2001
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 56-57, color repro.
2001
Steadman, Philip. Vermeer's camera: uncovering the truth behind the masterpieces. Oxford, 2001: 160-161, repro.
2002
Bailey, Anthony. Vermeer. Translated by Bettina Blumenberg. Berlin, 2002: color repro. between 160 and 161.
2003
Huerta, Robert D. Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the natural philosophers: the parallel search for knowledge during the age of discovery. Lewisburg, 2003: 45, 46, repro., 49, 51, 99, 102,103.
2003
Vergara, Alejandro. Vermeer y el interior holandés. Exh. cat. Museo nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003: 176-177, 255-256, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 208-209, no. 164, color repro.
2005
Fahy, Everett, ed. The Wrightsman Pictures. New Haven, 2005: 134-135, under cat. 37, fig. 4.
2005
Huerta, Robert D. Vermeer and Plato: painting the ideal. Lewisburg, 2005: 42-43, repro.
2005
Wright, Christopher. Vermeer. Revised ed. London, 2005: 50-52, color repro.
2008
Dolnick, Edward. The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century. New York, 2008: 107, 134.
2008
Liedtke, Walter A. Vermeer: the complete paintings. Ghent, 2008: no. 24, 136-139, color repro.
2008
Lopez, Jonathan. The man who made Vermeers: unvarnishing the legend of master forger Han van Meegeren. Orlando, 2008: 53, 55, 104, 175.
2010
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Die Malkunst." In Vermeer, die Malkunst: Spurensicherung an einem Meisterwerk = Vermeer, the Art of Painting: Scrutiny of a Picture. Edited by Sabine Haag, Elke Oberthaler and Sabine Pénot. Catalog in German, essays also translated into English. Exh. cat. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2010: 32-33 (German), fig. 6, 268 (English).
2011
Henderson, Jasper and Victor Schiferli. Vermeer: The Life and Work of a Master. Amsterdam, 2011: 56-57, color ill.
2012
Humphries, Oscar, ed. “Listings: Agenda, 7.” Apollo 176, no. 602 (October 2012): 25, color repro.
2012
Percival, Melissa. Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination. Burlington, Vt., 2012: 58, fig. 2.7.
2012
Tummers, Anna. The Eye of the Connoisseur: Authenticating Paintings by Rembrandt and His Contemporaries. Amsterdam, 2012: 28, 29, 30, color fig. 9.
2012
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Walter A. Liedtke, and Sandrina Bandera Bistoletti. Vermeer: il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese. Exh. cat. Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Milan, 2012: no. 49, 216-217, color repro.
2014
Krempel, León. "Allegorische Tronie-Paare bei Johannes Vermeer." in Tronies: das Gesicht in der frühen Neuzeit. Edited by Dagmar Hirschfelder and León Krempel. Berlin, 2014: 97-107, 112, 122, color pl. 9, as "Ecclesia."

Technical Summary

The support is a single wood plank, probably oak, with a vertical grain. A cradle, including a wooden collar around all four sides of the panel, was attached before the painting entered the collection. A partially completed painting exists underneath the present composition oriented 180 degrees with respect to the girl. The X-radiograph reveals the head-and-shoulders portrait of a man wearing a white kerchief around his neck and a button on his garment. Infrared reflectography at 1.1 to 2.5 microns[1] shows a cape across his shoulder, a broad-brimmed hat, locks of long curling hair, and vigorous brushwork in the background.

The panel was initially prepared with a light tan double ground.[2] The male bust was executed in a dark brown painted sketch, before flesh tones were applied to the face and white to the kerchief. The portrait of the young girl was painted directly over the underlying composition, with the exception of the area of the man’s kerchief, which Vermeer apparently toned down with a brown paint.

The paint used to model the girl was applied with smoothly blended strokes. Layered applications of paint of varying transparencies and thicknesses, often blended wet-into-wet, produced soft contours and diffused lighting effects. The paint in the white kerchief around the girl’s neck has been scraped back to expose darker paint below.

The painting was treated in 1994 to remove discolored varnish and inpaint. The treatment revealed the painting to be in excellent condition with just a few minor losses along the edges. The painting had been treated previously in 1933, probably by Louis de Wild, and in 1942 by Frank Sullivan.

[1] Infrared reflectography was performed with a Santa Barbara focal plane array InSb camera fitted with H, J, and K astronomy filters.

[2] The lower ground consists of calcium carbonate, the upper ground of white lead lightly toned with earth and black (see Melanie Gifford, "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique," in Vermeer Studies, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker [Washington, D.C., 1998], 185–199).

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Girl with the Red Hat
  • [fig. 1] Attributed to Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Flute, probably 1665/1675, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.98
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  • [fig. 2] Detail of lion-head finial, Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
  • [fig. 3] Experimental photograph, lion-head finial. Photo: Harry Beville
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  • [fig. 4] X-radiograph composite, Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
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  • [fig. 5] Infrared reflectogram, Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
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  • [fig. 6] Upside-down X-radiograph composite, Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
    Compare Image
  • [fig. 7] Upside-down infrared reflectogram, Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.53
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  • [1]

    The attribution of Girl with the Red Hat to Vermeer has been doubted by Frithjof van Thienen, Jan Vermeer of Delft (New York, 1949), 23. The painting was rejected by P. T. A. Swillens, Johannes Vermeer: Painter of Delft, 1632–1675 (Utrecht, 1950), 65; Albert Blankert, Rob Ruurs, and Willem L. van de Watering, Johannes Vermeer van Delft 1632–1675 (Utrecht, 1975; English ed., Oxford, 1978), 167–172; Yvonne Brentjens, “Twee meisjes van Vermeer in Washington,” Tableau 7 (February 1985): 54–58; and Gilles Aillaud, Albert Blankert, and John Michael Montias, Vermeer (Paris, 1986), 200–201. For reactions to Blankert’s rejection of this painting, see the reviews by Christopher Brown (Christopher Brown, review of  Albert Blankert, Rob Ruurs, and Willem L. van de Watering, Johannes Vermeer van Delft 1632–1675 [Utrecht, 1975], Simiolus 9 [1977]: 56–58) and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. (Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., review of Albert Blankert, Rob Ruurs, and Willem L. van de Watering, Johannes Vermeer van Delft 1632–1675 [Utrecht, 1975], Art Bulletin 59 [September 1977]: 439–441).  Benjamin Binstock has attributed Girl with a Red Hat to Vermeer’s daughter Maria Vermeer; see Benjamin Binstock, Vermeer's Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice (New York, 2009), 247–257, 253 repro. 

  • [2]

    For a comparative analysis of the paintings, see the entry on Girl with a Flute.

  • [3]

    Although only a portion of the tapestry is visible, it appears that two rather large-scale figures are depicted behind the girl. The patterned vertical strip on the right is probably the outer border. A. M. Louise E. Muler-Erkelens, keeper of textiles, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, relates this format to late sixteenth-century tapestries of the southern Netherlands. She also notes that the tapestries in Vermeer’s paintings belong to the same period (see her letter of May 7, 1974, to A. B. de Vries, copy  in NGA curatorial files).

  • [4]

    For example, Frans Hals (Dutch, c. 1582/1583 - 1666), who apparently invented the pose, used it often. It is employed in his Portrait of a Young Man, to capture an informal, momentary impression of the sitter. He drapes the figure’s arm over the chair, subordinating the horizontal for a more active diagonal emphasis. Vermeer minimized the diagonal thrust of the girl’s arm by partially obscuring it behind the lion finials of the chair. It is possible that the girl was not sitting on the lion finial chair at all and that Vermeer placed it in the foreground to act as a foil. See Charles Seymour Jr., “Dark Chamber and Light-Filled Room: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura,” Art Bulletin 46 (September 1964): 323–331.

  • [5]

    The first art historian to note this discrepancy was Reginald Howard Wilenski, An Introduction to Dutch Art (New York, 1929), 284–285. He hypothesized that the peculiar arrangement of the finials arose as a result of Vermeer’s use of a mirror. His reconstruction of Vermeer’s painting procedure, however, is untenable.

  • [6]

    Albert Blankert, Rob Ruurs, and Willem L. van de Watering, Johannes Vermeer van Delft 1632-1675 (Utrecht, 1975; English ed., Oxford, 1978), 109, in particular, emphasizes the position of the finials in his arguments against the attribution of the painting to Vermeer.

  • [7]

    The idea that Vermeer adjusted forms in such a manner is incompatible with those who believe that he totally and faithfully recorded his physical environment. P. T. A. Swillens, Johannes Vermeer: Painter of Delft, 1632–1675 (Utrecht, 1950), was the foremost proponent of this interpretation of Vermeer’s manner of painting. This attitude also underlies the writings about Vermeer by Albert Blankert.

  • [8]

    The literature on Vermeer and the camera obscura is extensive. See in particular Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Jan Vermeer (New York, 1981), note 41.

  • [9]

    See Charles Seymour Jr., “Dark Chamber and Light-Filled Room: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura,” Art Bulletin 46 (September 1964): 323– 331.

  • [10]

    He may also have recognized that the peculiarly soft quality of these unfocused highlights would beautifully express the luminosity of pearls. Thus even in paintings such as Woman Holding a Balance, whose genesis probably has little to do with the camera obscura, these optical effects are apparent.

  • [11]

    This misconception lies at the basis of the interpretation of Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura advanced by Daniel E. Fink, “Vermeer’s Use of the Camera Obscura: A Comprehensive Study,” Art Bulletin 53 (December 1971): 493–505. See Charles Seymour Jr., “Dark Chamber and Light-Filled Room: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura,” Art Bulletin 46 (September 1964): 323– 331.

  • [12]

    As suggested by Charles Seymour Jr., “Dark Chamber and Light-Filled Room: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura,” Art Bulletin 46 (September 1964): 323– 331.

  • [13]

    See inventory number 92, from Mauritshuis, The Hague.

  • [14]

    See inventory number 9128, c. 1667, from Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

  • [15]

    The only other panel painting attributed to Vermeer is the National Gallery of Art’s Girl with a Flute.

  • [16]

    Oil on panel, 38.5 x 31 cm, illustrated in Christopher Brown, Carel Fabritius (Oxford, 1981), pl. 3.

  • [17]

    John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (Princeton, 1989), 339, doc. 364. The term tronie had various meanings in the seventeenth century, but generally it denoted a small, relatively inexpensive bust-length figure study. Although such studies could have been commissioned portraits, most were probably figure types, or character studies, produced for the open market.

  • [18]

    For another small painting in the National Gallery of Art collection where one artist has reused a panel previously painted by another artist by turning the image 180 degrees, see Follower of Rembrandt van Rijn, Study of an Old Man.