Vermeer's 'Girl with a Flute' was likely painted by an associate of the Dutch master
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The collection of paintings by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer draws viewers from all over the world to the National Gallery of Art.
ALEXANDRA LIBBY: We have people whose mission it is to see every Vermeer, and that will take them from Tokyo to Washington.
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
Alexandra Libby is an associate curator at the museum in Washington, D.C.
LIBBY: Even in his day, he was special. We forget, in our age of mass visual culture, that it wasn't quite like that 350 years ago.
MARTINEZ: Vermeer's life and creative process is full of mysteries, but researchers rarely have had the chance to really examine the paintings.
LIBBY: When you take one off the wall for five hours, you get comments.
FADEL: When the pandemic hit and museums closed, a team of researchers finally had time to really study the Vermeers with high-tech imaging devices.
LIBBY: One of which was invented for the Mars rover that we can now use on a painting and say, well, what are the elemental particles that are part of this?
MARTINEZ: These particles of paint confirmed their suspicions. The painting "Girl With A Flute" is now believed to be the work of an associate of Vermeer, possibly an assistant or student.
LIBBY: It was poorly prepared from the very beginning, and that's just not something that Vermeer does.
FADEL: Libby is excited about this new information. She says the best cultural discoveries are the ones that don't shut the door on history.
LIBBY: They're the ones that crack it open and say, come on, everybody. Like, let's think about this some more.
MARTINEZ: "Girl With A Flute" is part of a new exhibition at the National Gallery called "Vermeer's Secrets." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.