This Vermeer Painting Breaks the Record for the Most Valuable Object Ever Stolen
There exist only 36 paintings known to be by the hand of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Thanks to their scarcity, his works are considered to be some of the most expensive objects in art.
Not least this painting, titled The Concert, which has a value today estimated to be in the region of $250 million.
So when it was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, it became one of the most valuable objects ever plundered and never recovered.
The Concert Painting
Let’s take a few moments to look at the contents of the painting. Its details are compelling.
The image shows three figures in a room performing a song. One woman sings whilst the other accompanies her on a harpsichord. A man wearing an ornate sash sits with his back to us. He is playing a stringed guitar-like instrument, called a cittern. He is in fact a cavalier or soldier, as can be seen from his shoulder belt and sword.
At first it might appear like a simple depiction of a musical recital, with all its innocent connotations, until we recall that in Dutch art the subject of music is often linked with themes of love and temptation.
Besides which, with Vermeer, things are never as simple as they first appear.
Notice, for example, the large painting that hangs on the wall behind the musician on the right. It can be accurately recognised as the painting known as The Procuress, made by Dirck van Baburen some 40 years prior to Vermeer’s work.
This earlier painting shows another musical scene: the woman with the lute (symbolic of love) is being propositioned by an ardent male client, who negotiates his price with the elderly woman.
What is Vermeer trying to tell us by including this bawdy image in his painting, hanging allegorically like a distant echo?