Once cautiously attributed to Johannes Vermeer, _Girl with a Flute_ was more likely painted by a studio associate of Vermeer. Although the general character and appearance of the work relate closely to works by Vermeer, especially _Girl with the Red Hat_, the quality falls short of Vermeer’s standards. _Girl with a Flute_ demonstrates an awareness of Vermeer’s idiosyncratic painting processes—such as the use of certain unusual pigments and the distinctive application of highlights—but a lack of skill or experience in reproducing them.

The two paintings are so close in concept that it seems likely that the artist of _Girl with a Flute_ was inspired by _Girl with the Red Hat_. The paintings are not portraits, but informal studies exploring the effects of light and facial expression. Both women gaze at the viewer from beneath striking hats that cast strong shadows over much of their faces. Each wears a rich blue garment and occupies a shallow space defined by a patterned tapestry and a chair with lion-head finials. While the model in _Girl with the Red Hat_ seems to regard the viewer with a quick turn of her head and an inquisitive gaze, her counterpart in _Girl with a Flute_ leans forward in a more static frontal posture.


  • Title: Girl with a Flute
  • Creator: Attributed to Johannes Vermeer
  • Date Created: probably 1665/1675
  • Physical Dimensions: painted surface: 20 x 17.8 cm (7 7/8 x 7 in.) framed: 39.7 x 37.5 x 5.1 cm (15 5/8 x 14 3/4 x 2 in.)
  • Provenance: Possibly Pieter Claesz van Ruijven [1624-1674], Delft; possibly by inheritance to his wife, Maria de Knuijt [d. 1681]; possibly by inheritance to her daughter, Magdalena van Ruijven [1655-1682], Delft; possibly by inheritance to her husband, Jacobus Abrahamsz. Dissius [1653-1695], Delft;[1] (sale, Amsterdam, 16 May 1696, probably no. 39 or 40).[2] possibly the van Son family; Jan Mahie van Boxtel en Liempde and his wife, Geertruida van Boxtel en Liempde [née van Son, d. 1876], 's-Hertogenbosch; purchased from the estate by their daughter, Jaqueline Gertrude Marie de Grez [Dowager de Grez, née Mahie van Boxtel en Liempde, d. 1917], Brussels, wife of Jonkheer Jean de Grez [1837-1910]; sold by 1911 to (Antiquar E. Jonas, Paris);[3] sold 16 June 1911 to (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London); half-share sold June 1911 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York, and P. & D. Colnaghi, London); Agnew's half-share sold 21 November 1913 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York);[4] Knoedler's three-quarter share sold July 1915 to (P. & D. Colnaghi, London). August Janssen [1863-1918], Amsterdam, after August 1916;[5] his estate; sold 1919 with the entire Janssen collection to (Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam);[6] purchased jointly April 1921 by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York, and Frederick Muller & Co., Amsterdam);[7] sold February 1923 to Joseph E. Widener; inheritance from Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase by funds of the Estate; gift 1942 to NGA. [1] The 1683 inventory of goods accruing to Jacob Dissius after the death of his wife Magdalena van Ruijven lists twenty paintings by Vermeer. For the complete transactions between her husband Jacob Dissius and his father Abraham Dissius following her death, see John Michael Montias, _Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History_, Princeton, 1989, 246-257, 359-361, docs. 417, 420. [2] For this sale see John Michael Montias, _Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History_, Princeton, 1989: 363-364, doc. 439. Item no. 38 in the sale is described as "a tronie in antique dress, uncommonly artful"; item no. 39 as "Another ditto Vermeer"; and item no. 40 as "A pendant of the same." [3] The exact date when the painting was sold by the De Grez family is uncertain; it seems to be either 1911 or 1914. The 1911 date used in the Provenance comes from three sources. The first is a letter of 18 May 1995 from Melissa De Medeiros, librarian at M. Knoedler (in NGA curatorial files) that says "Under Knoedler #12403 we purchased a 1/2 share in the painting from Thos. Agnew & Sons in June 1911 and sold it in July 1915 to P&D Colnaghi, London." A follow-up letter of 31 May 1995 clarifies the fact that the half share purchased from Agnew's was actually split with Colnaghi. The second is a letter of 25 July 1995 from Fred Bancroft, director of Agnew's Inc., New York (in NGA curatorial files), that says: "According to our stock books, the Vermeer was purchased from E. Jonas on June 16, 1911 and then sold outright to Knoedler on November 21, 1913. There seems to be no record of shares being sold to other dealers." The phrase "sold outright," however, hints that there may have been shares involved, as evidenced by Knoedler's records. The third is a letter of 30 May 1996 from Stephen Rudge, Colnaghi, London (in NGA curatorial files), indicating that, despite the lack of a stock book record, "there is an old record card that confirms both the purchase with Knoedler and the fact that we took it over in July 1915." From these records, it appears that the painting had left the De Grez family by 1911, since Agnew's purchased it from E. Jonas in June of that year. However, correspondence in the NGA curatorial files from Dr. J. B.V. M.J. van de Mortel, a relation of the Dowager de Grez, consistently relates the story that his father, Henri van de Mortel, who was the Dowager's nephew and handled her affairs, sold the painting for her in 1914 to Antiquar Jonas in Paris (letters to David Finley of 31 October 1946 and to John Walker of 18 November 1946). Because it was his father who was handling the Dowager's affairs, it is possible that Dr. Van de Mortel had the year of the sale wrong. The dealers' records would imply so. [4] At this point, it appears Knoedler held a three-quarter share and Colnaghi a one-quarter share in the painting. [5] According to a letter of 30 May 1996 from Stephen Rudge, Colnaghi, London (in NGA curatorial files), the old record "card does mention that it was still present [with Colnaghi] in August 1916." [6] “Janssen Paintings Sold in Holland,” The Milwaukee Journal (3 August 1919): 10; Otto Hirschmann, “Die Sammlung August Janssen,” Der Cicerone 12 (January 1920): 17-18. [7] Letter of 18 May 1995 from Melissa De Medeiros, librarian at M. Knoedler (in NGA curatorial files). This letter also provides the date of sale to Joseph Widener.
  • Medium: oil on panel

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