5 Things To Know About “Girl With The Red Hat”

/ Exhibitions

NGA_Johannes Vermeer, Girl in the Red HatOf all the incredibly detailed and beautiful paintings you’ll find in Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries, one painting you cannot miss is Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat. As one of only three dozen works created by Vermeer, the Girl with the Red Hat is both incredibly rare and a perfect example of Vermeer and his craft.

At our annual Chenoweth Lecture on Saturday, April 18 at 6PM, the National Gallery of Art’s curator Arthur Wheelock, Ph.D. will tell us more about this painting. Dr. Wheelock is a leading Vermeer scholar and has had extensive experience with the Girl and many other paintings in the exhibition.

Before the lecture, here are 5 fun facts about the Girl with the Red Hat you should know:

  1. Surprisingly, x-ray and neutron reflectography have revealed that underneath Vermeer’s image lies a bust length portrait of a man with a wide brimmed hat, perhaps similar to the one worn in the early Officer and Laughing Girl. Before painting directly on the old portrait, Vermeer turned it upside down to avoid being excessively influenced by the image.
  2. Girl with the Red Hat is considered a tronie, a term that refers to a type of painting based on living models – most of which were the artists’ friends or relatives and sometimes, the artists themselves. Vermeer is known to have painted three tronies in all.
  3. The Girl with the Red Hat highlights Vermeer’s eye for detail. Artists favored garments, such as this red hat, that looked particularly exotic because it would offer an opportunity to show off painterly technique, one of the strongest calling cards of the professional artist.
  4. Of all 37 paintings attributed to Vermeer, the Girl with the Red Hat is only one of two works not painted on canvas. The other is Girl with a Flute, which is painted on a thin oak panel. Arthur Wheelock, our speaker for the Chenoweth Lecture, has written that Vermeer may have used a panel for this piece to create a perfectly smooth, dreamlike sheen in the painting.
  5. This painting is the closest among Vermeer’s works to the image produced by the camera obscura, “an optical device which is a precursor of the modern photographic camera.” To learn more about camera obscura, see this video from NGA.

See the painting along with other small-scale masterpieces in the Small Treasures exhibition. Tickets are free for BMA members and kids 12 and under, and $12 for non-members.

Facts found in the Small Treasures catalog and essentialvermeer.com.