Meet Vermeer: The Google App That Lets You See All of Vermeer's Work in One Place

Johannes Vermeer, Girl With a Pearl Earring (1665)
Johannes Vermeer, Girl With a Pearl Earring (1665)
Mauritshuis, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To see the full works of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, you’ll have to whip out your phone. As The New York Times reports, Google Arts and Culture has worked with the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands to create a virtual museum, Meet Vermeer, where you can see all of the painter's art in one visit.

The Mauritshuis is home to Vermeer's most famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring, but the artist's other work is held in museum collections around the world. The Meet Vermeer app draws on high-resolution photographs contributed by 18 different museums and private collections to create an augmented-reality exhibit of a wide span of Vermeer's work. The list of institutions include the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Frick Collection in New York City.

The virtual museum brings together more Vermeer paintings in one place than any physical museum would possibly be able to offer. For one thing, many of the centuries-old paintings are too fragile to travel. Some of the paintings can't be seen in person—the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum submitted an image of a painting called The Concert that was stolen from its collection in 1990. (Four of Vermeer's paintings have been stolen from museums since the 1970s, but the other three have since been recovered.)

Vermeer scholars have authenticated 36 different paintings from the artist, though he may have painted closer to 45 during his career. Only paintings that the majority of Vermeer scholars agree on are included in Meet Vermeer, since the origins of the remainder are still up for debate.

Four screenshots showing a digital art gallery in the 'Meet Vermeer' augmented reality app
Four views from the Meet Vermeer augmented reality gallery
Screenshot, Google Arts and Culture

To view the 3D walkthrough of the exhibit, you’ll need to download the Google Arts and Culture app. From there, you can click on the "Meet Vermeer" exhibit and navigate to the augmented reality feature. (Click "get started" on the tab that says "The complete work in augmented reality.") From there, you'll need to move your phone around in space a bit to get the app oriented to your position. Soon, a miniature, roofless museum will show up on your screen. You can tap to enter the museum and move around the galleries, where you'll see Vermeer's paintings hung on the virtual walls. Move your phone to look around and double-tap the paintings to zoom in and get more information.

The entire digital exhibit involves much more than just an augmented reality walk-through. It includes features on Vermeer's influence, the subjects he painted regularly, his Dutch hometown of Delft (also available as a digital walk-through), the palette and tools he used, examinations of Girl With a Pearl Earring, the history of Vermeer-stealing art thieves, and more.

Download the app for Android or iOS.

Love Vermeer's Baroque style? Learn more about Girl With a Pearl Earring here. As a chaser, go ahead and brush up on facts about another master painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt van Rijn, too.

[h/t The New York Times]

Lost Sketches From The Little Prince Have Been Discovered in Switzerland

Oleksandr Samolyk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Oleksandr Samolyk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, published in 1943, has long been regarded as one of the most compelling books of the 20th century. Drawing upon Saint-Exupéry's own experiences in aviation, the book tells the tale of a pilot who crashes in the Sahara and befriends a little boy who claims to have come from outer space. The book is accompanied by a number of illustrations by Saint-Exupéry. Now, Smithsonian reports that some of the original preparatory sketches have surfaced.

According to France24.com, the sketches—of the titular Little Prince chatting with a fox, a boa constrictor devouring an elephant, and a character called the Tippler—were purchased at auction in 1986 by an art collector named Bruno Stefanini, who tucked them away in a folder. When Stefanini passed away in December 2018, the artwork—drawn on airmail paper—was uncovered by workers at his non-profit Foundation for Art, Culture, and History in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Aviator and 'The Little Prince' author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is photographed inside of an airplane cockpit in 1935
Aviator and The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1935.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The organization intends to share its findings with the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which currently houses the original book manuscript (including drafts of the book's most famous phrase, "What is essential is invisible to the eye") and 35 other sketches.

The Stefanini collection also includes a particularly personal piece of material. One of the sketches includes a love letter made out to Saint-Exupéry's wife while the pilot was in New York in 1942 following Germany’s invasion of France. It was there he wrote The Little Prince, which was published the following year. In 1944, Saint-Exupéry was shot down by a German pilot over the Mediterranean.

[h/t Smithsonian]

The Definition of Museum Could Be Changing

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
roman_slavik/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve always casually defined museum as “a place to see art or historical objects,” you’re not necessarily wrong. But the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has a more specific, official guideline that defines a museum as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.”

ICOM’s 40,000 members have been adhering to this definition for almost 50 years to represent more than 20,000 museums around the world. Now, The Art Newspaper reports, some members want to change it.

On July 22, the organization’s executive board convened in Paris and composed a new definition that Danish curator Jette Sandahl believes better suits the demands of “cultural democracy.” By this updated description, a museum must “acknowledg[e] and addres[s] the conflicts and challenges of the present,” “work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world,” and “contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality, and planetary wellbeing.”

The proposal immediately elicited harsh reactions from a number of other members of the museum community, who felt the text was too ideological and vague. François Mairesse, a professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and the chair of the International Committee of Museology, even resigned from the revisory commission—led by Sandahl—earlier this summer when he realized the new definition wasn’t, by his standards, really a definition. “This is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant,” he told The Art Newspaper. “It would be disastrous to impose only one type of museum.”

The current plan is for ICOM members to vote on the definition at the general assembly on September 7 in Kyoto, Japan, but 24 national branches and five museums’ international committees have petitioned to postpone the vote—they’d like some time to create their own definition for museum and present it as a counter-proposal.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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