Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting

Vermeer: The Astronomer

Inspiration and Rivalry

(Musée du Louvre, Paris, 22 February-22 May 2017)

Vermeer is one of the few artists whose mere name can prompt a stampede. Nowadays he’s seen as a kind of lone genius, but this show restores him to the context of his age, showing him exchanging ideas and themes with his peers. It has proven to be one of the most popular exhibitions in the Louvre’s history, forcing the museum to introduce timed entry and forcing visitors to book in advance. Tickets cover both this and the Valentin de Boulogne exhibition and, though my heart lies with Valentin, I found myself captivated by these jewel-like pictures of the Dutch Golden Age.

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Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio

Valentin: David with the Head of Goliath

(Musée du Louvre, Paris, 20 February-22 May 2017)

Around 1610, a French teenager arrived in Rome, hoping to study as a painter. His name was Valentin. Although he was just too late to meet Caravaggio, his artistic formation took place in a community beholden to the sharp contrasts and uncompromising realism of the older artist. Valentin would become known as one of the most gifted of the ‘Caravaggisti’, but this exhibition gives him credit as someone who was able to develop and transcend his sources. We move from rowdy Roman taverns, full of cardsharps, fortune tellers and impromptu concerts, to face-to-face encounters with brooding saints. Every room testifies to this underrated painter’s flair and intensity.

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Late Raphael

Raphael: Self Portrait with a friend

(Musée du Louvre, Paris, until 14 January 2013)

The things I do for art! Yesterday I got up horrendously early and went to Paris for the day, to visit the Louvre’s Late Raphael exhibition before it closed (yes, I took the Eurostar from London, went to the Louvre, saw the exhibition and took the train right back home again: there’s something faintly surreal about it). Previously at the Prado, this is the natural successor of the National Gallery’s 2004-5 show Raphael: From Urbino to Rome.

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