Where is the art history in technical art history? As the tools of analysis continue to evolve, the scientific investigation of works of art is transforming our understanding of those works, how they were made, and why. Increasingly sophisticated methods of seeing below the surfaces of paintings offer unprecedented glimpses into the creative process. This special issue of the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, “Vermeer: New Findings from the National Gallery of Art,” presents three interrelated articles about exciting recent research into that museum’s four paintings by or attributed to Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). These studies draw out the essential role of conservation and scientific research in the study of art and present them in ways that are meaningful to art historians and conservation scientists, as well as the interested reader. A model of interdisciplinary collaboration, the articles are the work of a team of National Gallery of Art curators, conservators, and scientists: Dina Anchin, associate paintings conservator; John K. Delaney, senior imaging scientist; Kathryn A. Dooley, imaging scientist; E. Melanie Gifford, research conservator; Lisha Deming Glinsman, conservation scientist; Alexandra Libby, associate curator, department of Northern European painting; and Marjorie E. Wieseman, curator and head, department of Northern European painting.
The first study presents recent scientific analysis of two genre paintings—Woman Holding a Balance and A Lady Writing—that has uncovered a previously unrecognized level of freedom and spontaneity in Vermeer’s initial preparatory stages. The second article argues that Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat occupies a special position within his oeuvre as his first foray into the bolder, more abstract rendering of light and more highly contrasting pigments that characterize his late career. The third article opens the possibility that Vermeer did not work in isolation, presenting compelling evidence that Girl with a Flute was painted by a studio associate with intimate knowledge of Vermeer’s practice. An appendix, “Methodology and Resources,” gives the reader guidance on interpreting the information obtained with a range of analytical techniques and offers direct access to the technical documents discussed in all three articles. Our publication of “Vermeer: New Findings from the National Gallery of Art” coincides with the exhibition Vermeer’s Secrets, which is on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from October 8, 2022, through January 8, 2023.
With this issue we say goodbye to Dagmar Eichburger of Universität Heidelberg and thank her for her nine years of dedicated service as associate editor. Dagmar has been a stimulating colleague for us on the editorial board and a wonderful liaison with our European contributors and readers. In her stead, we welcome Joanna Woodall, professor emerita at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. Joanna has published widely on Dutch and Flemish art and the visual culture of the early modern period. She comes to the journal with impressive editorial experience, having long served on the editorial board of the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek and having edited Portraiture: Facing the Subject (1997) and co-edited numerous volumes, most recently Money Matters in European Artworks and Literature, c. 1400–1750 (2022, with Natasha Seaman).
For the current issue, we are enormously grateful to our managing editor Jennifer Henel for transforming texts and more than two hundred images into JHNA digital articles. Once again, we thank Jessica Skwire Routhier for her expert, attentive copyediting of the texts.
We encourage you to consider JHNA for your own publications. With your help, JHNA will remain one of the leading journals for early modern art of the Netherlands and its region. The journal welcomes submissions at any time. Please consult our Submission Guidelines.
H. Perry Chapman, University of Delaware, Editor in Chief
Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Art Institute of Chicago, Associate Editor
Bret Rothstein, Indiana University, Associate Editor
Joanna Woodall, The Courtauld Institute, Associate Editor
Alison M. Kettering, Carleton College, Past Editor in Chief