The Concert (Vermeer)

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The Concert
Vermeer The concert.JPG
Artist Johannes Vermeer
Yearcirca 1664
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions72.5 cm× 64.7 cm(28.5 in× 25.5 in)
LocationWhereabouts unknown since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft in 1990

The Concert (c. 1664) is a painting by Dutchman Johannes Vermeer depicting a man and two women performing music. It belonged to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but was stolen in 1990 and remains missing. [1]

Johannes Vermeer 17th-century Dutch painter

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Art museum in Boston, MA

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a museum in the Fenway–Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts near the Back Bay Fens. It consists of two buildings. The original building, – called Fenway Court during Isabella Stewart Gardner's lifetime – is a Venetian-style pallazzo on Fenway built in 1902 and designed by Willard T. Sears. The New Wing building, which sits next to the original building on Evans Way, was completed in 2012 after 2 1/2 years of construction. It was designed by Renzo Piano.

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth-largest in the United States.



Although The Concert has been dated stylistically to the mid-1660s, it is first documented only in 1780. [2] It was acquired by Isabella Stewart Gardner in an 1892 auction in Paris for $5,000 [3] and subsequently displayed in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. On the night of March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as policemen stole 13 works out of the museum, including The Concert. To this day the painting has not resurfaced; it is thought to be the most valuable work currently unrecovered, with a value estimated at over $200,000,000. [4]

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft 1990 art theft in Boston

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the early hours, guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered. The museum initially offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the art's recovery, but in 2017 this was temporarily doubled to $10 million, with an expiration date set to the end of the year. This was extended into 2018 following helpful tips from the public.


The picture measures 28.5 by 25.5 inches (72.5 by 64.7 centimetres) and shows three musicians: a young woman sitting at a harpsichord, a man playing the lute, and a woman who is singing. The harpsichord's upturned lid is decorated with an Arcadian landscape; its bright coloring stands in contrast to the two paintings hanging on the wall to the right and left. A viola da gamba can be seen lying on the floor. The musicians' clothing and surroundings identify them as members of the upper bourgeoisie. The male lute player, for instance, wears a shoulder belt and a sword. Despite its simplicity, the black and white marble flooring is luxurious and expensive. [5]

Harpsichord musical instrument played by means of a keyboard

A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard which activates a row of levers that in turn trigger a mechanism that plucks one or more strings with a small plectrum.

Lute musical instrument

A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table. The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing, so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch. The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

The bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:

Of the two paintings in the background, the one on the right is The Procuress by Dirck Van Baburen, which belonged to Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins. The work also appears in his Lady Seated at a Virginal , probably painted some six years after The Concert. The painting on the left is a wild pastoral landscape. The musical theme in Dutch painting in Vermeer's time often connoted love and seduction, but in this case the feeling is more ambiguous. Although the presence of Van Baburen's sexually exuberant picture suggests such an interpretation, its function may be to provide a contrast with the actual domestic situation. In the same way, the peaceful scenes depicted on the harpsichord contrast with the wild landscape painting on the wall. [2]

<i>The Procuress</i> (Dirck van Baburen) number of similar paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Dirck van Baburen

The Procuress is the name given to a number of similar paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Dirck van Baburen. The painting is in the Caravaggiesque style of the Utrecht school.

Maria Thins was the mother-in-law of Johannes Vermeer and a member of the Gouda Thins family.

<i>Lady Seated at a Virginal</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

Lady Seated at a Virginal, also known as Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, is a genre painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in about 1670–72 and now in the National Gallery, London.

Even before the actual robbery, the theft of this painting was the subject of a 1964 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called "Ten Minutes from Now". [6] [7]

<i>Alfred Hitchcock Presents</i> American television anthology series

Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series that was hosted and produced by Alfred Hitchcock; the program aired on CBS and NBC between 1955 and 1965. It featured dramas, thrillers, and mysteries. By the time it premiered on October 2, 1955, Hitchcock had been directing films for over three decades. Time magazine named it one of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All Time". The Writers Guild of America ranked it #79 on their list of the 101 Best-Written TV Series tying it with Monty Python's Flying Circus, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Upstairs, Downstairs.

Following the real theft, the stolen painting has figured in various TV and animated series as well as two novels: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (2010) [8] and The Medusa Plot by Gordon Korman (2011). [9] In Tracy Chevalier's historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), Vermeer paints The Concert at the same time that he is painting Girl with a Pearl Earring , an event also portrayed in the 2003 film adaptation.

Steve Martin American actor, comedian, musician, author, playwright, and producer

Stephen Glenn Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician. Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. Since the 1980s, having branched away from comedy, Martin has become a successful actor, as well as an author, playwright, pianist, and banjo player, eventually earning him an Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards, among other honors.

<i>The Medusa Plot</i> book by Gordon Korman

The Medusa Plot is the first book in the Cahills vs. Vespers series. The book was written by Gordan Korman and released on August 30, 2011. The story picks up two years after the original series The 39 Clues and is about the Cahills' attempt to save members of their family that have been kidnapped by following the instructions given by Vesper One.

Gordon Korman Canadian American childrens writer

Gordon Korman is a Canadian American author. Korman has written over 80 children's and young adult fiction books. Korman has sold more than 28 million books over a career spanning four decades and has appeared at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list.

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  1. "The $500 Million Gardner Museum Heist: Have You Seen These Paintings?". Time Magazine. March 18, 2013.
  2. 1 2 Janson, Jonathan. "Understanding The Concert by Johannes Vermeer".
  3. "Netflix - Watch TV Shows Online, Watch Movies Online".
  4. Stolen, a documentary about the theft of The Concert, from the PBS website.
  5. John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu, Princeton University 1991, p.192
  6. Noted under Trivia at IMDb
  7. The Hitchcock Zone
  8. Published by Hachette UK,, %22%20%20%22Vermeer%22&f=false chapter 33
  9. Published by Scholastic Inc, p.132