Kenwood contributes to display of Vermeer’s art

by Vermeer on loan from Kenwood House

by Vermeer on loan from Kenwood House - Credit: Archant

Famous painting on loan to National Gallery for exhibition that looks at the role of music among the elite in the Netherlands

One of the most famous paintings from Kenwood House is on loan to the National Gallery while the English Heritage property is under restoration.

Johannes Vermeer’s The Guitar Player (1670-2) is among several works by the Dutch master to feature in an exhibition at the gallery’s Sainsbury Wing.

Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure explores music as a popular motif in 17th century Dutch painting and a daily pastime of the elite in the northern Netherlands.

Alongside the artwork, song books and musical instruments of the period – virginals, guitars and lutes – will be on display, and three days a week visitors can enjoy live performances by the Academy of Ancient Music.

The Vermeer from the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood House will hang beside The Music Lesson, on loan from Her Majesty the Queen, and two paintings owned by the National Gallery which also depict female musicians.

A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal and A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal are both captivating depictions of domestic musical performances.

Most Read


Curators say music carried diverse associations in paintings of the period. In portraits, a musical instrument or songbook might suggest the talent or sophistication of the sitter, while in still lifes it might act as a metaphor for harmony, a symbol of transience or an indicator of education.

The exhibition will show that, where artistic liberties were taken with depiction of instruments, it was usually to enhance the visual appeal of the finished work.

Alongside the works by Vermeer will hang paintings by Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken.

Betsy Wieseman, curator of Dutch paintings at the National Gallery, said: “This exhibition presents a marvellous opportunity to understand the key role that music played in 17th century Dutch art and society. We’re hoping that gallery visitors will experience the same sort of pleasurable musical associations our 17th century predecessors would have had when looking at these evocative paintings by Vermeer and his contemporaries.”

The exhibition runs until September 8 at the Sainsbury Wing, price £7.

The Academy of Ancient Music will perform every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the exhibition space including works by Dutch composers, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Joannes Florentius a Kempis.

n Kenwood House will remain closed until the autumn while £6million repair works are carried out including urgent restoration of the roof and exterior and re-presentation of the Robert Adam interiors.