Selfpresentation of a Genius

The Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna (Austria) focuses in a recent exhibition on a single painting of Johannes Vermeer, “The Art of Painting”. The painting made its way from the waiting room of the painter’s house in Delft, via the Dutch Baron Van Swieten, the family Czernin, the planned Führer Museum in Linz to the Kunsthistorisches museum. For the first time, the painting is now the subject of a comprehensive technological and conservation study. Among the objects on show are Claes Jansz. Visscher’s original map of the 17 Provinces, which is depicted in the painting, a chandelier embellished with a double-headed eagle, a sumptuous tapestry, and an exact copy of the black silk doublet decorated with slits across its back and arms. With the help of these props we analyse the painting’s many layers of meaning. The curtain on the left refers to the Greek artist Apelles and Art and thus the artists (in casu Vermeer) as highest creation of mankind seems the message of the painting. The exhibition is like a crime-scene analysis, reconstructing the motives, means and techniques of painting.