This week we did our picture study in our usual manner using Vermeer's The Art of Painting. My older students and I always like to do a little research on the artist and the paintings we are studying. Sometimes, if appropriate, we will share tidbits with the younger boys.
During our research of this painting, we learned that it has a most unusual history. We only shared with the little boys the first sentence, but Sam and I found the rest very interesting.
The painting is considered a work with significance for the artist because the painter himself did not part with it or sell it, even when he was in debt. In 1676, his widow Catharina bequeathed it to her mother, Maria Thins, in an attempt to avoid the sale of the painting to satisfy creditors. The executor of Vermeer's estate, the famous Delft microscopist Anton van Leeuwenhoek, determined that the transferal of the work to the late painter's mother-in-law was illegal. It is not known who owned the painting for most of the 18th century. Until 1860, the painting was considered to be by Vermeer's contemporary Pieter de Hooch; Vermeer was little known until the late 19th century. Pieter's signature was even forged on the painting. It was at the intervention of French Vermeer scholar, Thoré Bürger and the German art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen that it was recognised as a Vermeer original. It was placed on public display in the Czernin Museum in Vienna. It 's ownership again become interesting after the Nazi invasion of Austria. It was acquired from its then owner, Count Jaromir Czernin by Adolf Hitler for his personal collection at a price of 1.65 million Reichsmark through his agent, Hans Posse on November 20, 1940. The painting was rescued from a salt mine at the end of World War II in 1945, where it was preserved from Allied bombing raids, with other works of art. The Americans presented the painting to the Austrian Government in 1946, since the Czernin family were deemed to have sold it voluntarily, without undue force from Hitler. It is now the property of the State of Austria.