No California museum owns a painting by Jan Vermeer, but two of the artist’s works will soon be on view in the Golden State. The famous Girl With a Pearl Earring will be at the De Young Museum, San Francisco, from Jan. 26 to June 2, as part of a national tour of paintings from the Mauritshuis. Meanwhile the Getty Center will be showing Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, a loan from the Rijksmuseum, February 16 to March 21.
It wasn’t so long ago that Vermeers were considered too rare and precious to travel. When they were lent, it wasn’t to the West Coast. In 2011 the Metropolitan Museum lent Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute to the Norton Simon Museum. That was in exchange for the NSM lending its Raphael for a Met exhibition, and as far as I know, it was the first time a Vermeer had been shown in Southern California. This year’s loans are occasioned by renovations of the two big Dutch museums. Museums in the Netherlands are reeling from cuts of government funding, and loans of high-profile works are one way of reminding the American market that all the great European paintings aren’t at the Louvre.