Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is one of the most famous works from the Golden Age of Dutch painting. After several years of restoration, the work is once again part of an exhibition. The Dresden State Art Collections are presenting it at the Old Masters Picture Gallery together with nine other works by the artist and around 50 other Dutch genre paintings under the title ‘Johannes Vermeer. On Reflection.’ A. Lange & Söhne is lending its support to the show – Germany’s biggest-ever Vermeer exhibition – and renewing its sponsorship of the Dresden State Art Collections, which began in 2006, for another five years.
Johannes Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window has been at the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden’s Zwinger Palace since 1742. This early major work by Vermeer has been undergoing restoration in Dresden since 2017 following extensive research and the recommendations of an international commission of experts. The painting has been restored to its original stunning colours – and the depiction of Cupid (also known as Eros or Amor) on the back wall has now been revealed. Until 2 January 2022, the work will be the centrepiece of the exhibition ‘Johannes Vermeer. On Reflection.’
“This painting is one of a series of paintings in which individuals, mostly women, pause in the course of an activity, resting and reflecting,” says Stephan Koja, director of the Old Masters Picture Gallery. “Vermeer addresses fundamental questions of our existence.” As such, ‘On Reflection’ could also be the title of Vermeer’s entire artistic oeuvre. The artist, whose body of work only consists of around 35 known paintings, understood how to capture certain moods of his era like no other. Each of his paintings rewards the viewer with the discovery of magnificent details.
Wilhelm Schmid, Lange CEO, sees parallels in this with the art of watchmaking, as practised at A. Lange & Söhne: “The combination of interruption, reflection and concentration on the next step also characterises the working methods of the finisseurs and watchmakers. They are passionate about every detail, creating a precision-engineered microcosm that is also an inspirational objet d’art.”
Another aspect concerns the way in which restoration work is cultivated at A. Lange & Söhne – as a process that promotes knowledge. Thanks to their experience with unique pocket watches, the Lange experts know the commitment it takes to restore an outstanding object back to its original condition and make it functional again. The best example of this is the restoration of the Grand Complication 42500, which was sold to a Viennese collector in 1902 as A. Lange & Söhne’s most sophisticated watch. This major timepiece found its way back to its birthplace, the manufactory, in 2001. As it was in very poor condition, it took a team of experts nine years to carefully restore. This was a remarkable achievement, as many of the timepiece’s 833 parts were corroded beyond recognition and had to be remade according to traditional expertise. The pocket watch is now on permanent loan to the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in Dresden’s Zwinger Palace – a stone’s throw from the Old Masters Picture Gallery.
With the Vermeer exhibition and the restoration of the painting, the Dresden State Art Collections are able to offer a new perspective on the artist’s work, once again proving themselves an institution that has an important impact on the world of art history and culture. This is also the foundation for their partnership with A. Lange & Söhne, which began in 2006 and has just been renewed for another five years.