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Vermeer's 'Girl with a Flute' was likely painted by an associate of the Dutch master


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.


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.

MARTÍNEZ: 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?

MARTÍNEZ: 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.

MARTÍNEZ: "Girl With A Flute" is part of a new exhibition at the National Gallery called "Vermeer's Secrets." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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