The Geographer, Johannes Vermeer, oil on canvas, roughly 18×20 inches(45 x 51 cm). Link is to zoomable version on the Google Art Project, downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Staedel Museum, Germany.
Twenty six years ago this month, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC debuted a most remarkable exhibition of the works of 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The exhibition included 21 of the painter’s 35 known works, including such famed works as Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Music Lesson, Woman with a Pearl Necklace and The Lacemaker, as well as his only two existing landscapes.
By comparison, the blockbuster exhibition of Vermeer’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001 showcased 15 of the master’s works, which was still considered an impressive number.
I had the good fortune to see both the D.C. and New York exhibitions. Even in the midst of the mind boggling cornucopia of Vermeer’s gem-like paintings in the 1995 show in D.C., The Geographer stood out as one of his finest paintings.