Home > Museums > Archived: Once in a Lifetime Vermeer Exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum Breaks Visitor Record

Archived: Once in a Lifetime Vermeer Exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum Breaks Visitor Record

Vermeer Exhibition, Rijksmuseum: February 10 – June 4, 2023

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Mauritshuis, The Hague
Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is part of the special Vermeer Exhibition at Rijksmuseum.
On loan from Mauritshuis, The Hague, until March 30, 2023

This article is about a past event. We keep it online for its historical value.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 2023 organized a “once in a lifetime” exhibition of works by Johannes Vermeer — one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Vermeer Exhibition Breaks Visitor Record

The Vermeer exhibition is the most visited exposition in the history of the Rijksmuseum, reports the museum. (Bear in mind that the museum first opened its doors in 1885).

A total of 650,000 people came to the Rijksmuseum for the event. Most of them came from the Netherlands, but the museum also had many visitors from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The previous attendance record was set in 2015 with the exhibition “The Late Rembrandt,” which attracted 520,698 visitors in three months. That was 60,000 more than the previous record, held by a Rembrandt exhibition in 1969.

Largest Retrospective Exhibition of Johannes Vermeer Paintings Ever

28 of the 37 known paintings by the 17th century master Johannes Vermeer were on display from February 10, 2023 through June 4, 2023 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

This is the largest retrospective exhibition of Johannes Vermeer paintings ever. The previous largest Vermeer exhibition, with 22 paintings, took place 27 years ago at Mauritshuis in The Hague.

It is highly unlikely there will ever be another Vermeer exhibition anywhere in the world as extensive as this one.

Tickets for the Vermeer Exhibition at Rijksmuseum Sold Out

Even before the highly anticipated exhibition opened, art lovers purchased 200,000 tickets. By February 11, the second day of the exhibition, all 450,000 tickets had been sold.

By extending opening hours Rijksmuseum was able to make extra tickets available. But interest was so high that the museum’s website crashed within minutes. The site was repeatedly unavailable for over week.

Vermeer Exhibition Online

If you missed out on the exhibition — or if you want to know more about Vermeer and his pantings — take a free, virtual Vermeer tour, narrated by Stephen Fry. It displays all the paintings in the exhibit — including the seven paintings which have never been on view in the Netherlands before.

You can either follow Fry’s presentation (a real, informative pleasure), or create your own tour.

These Vermeer Paintings Can Still Be Viewed After The Exhibition

From 7 June to 10 October, six paintings by Vermeer will remain on display in the Rijksmuseum.

The Girl in the Red Hat (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and Young Woman at the Virginal (The Leiden Collection, New York) will then be shown together with the four works by Vermeer from the museum’s own collection:

  • The Milkmaid (Het melkmeisje) (ca. 1658-1659)
  • View of Houses in Delft, known as ‘The Little Street’ (Gezicht op huizen in Delft, ‘Het straatje’) (1658-1659)
  • The Love Letter (De liefdesbrief) (ca. 1669-1670)
  • Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (Brieflezende vrouw in blauw) (ca. 1662-1664)

These paintings can be viewed in the museum’s Gallery of Honour [For details, see this detailed Rijksmuseum information]

Missed Vermeer? Rijksmuseum Has More To Offer

If you were unable to attain tickets for the Vermeer exhibition, you will still enjoy seeing everything else the Rijksmuseum has to offer. Not just the world famous Night Watch by Rembrandt, but a tremendous collection of Dutch art.

No wonder this is the most visited museum not just in Amsterdam, but in the entire country of the Netherlands.

A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without a tour of the Rijksmuseum.

GetYourGuide, our trusted ticket partner, has skip-the-line entry tickets, guided tours, or combination tickets:

Johannes Vermeer, View of Houses in Delft, known as 'The Little Street'. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Johannes Vermeer’s View of Houses in Delft, known as ‘The Little Street,’ is one of four paintings by the Dutch master owned by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum: Most Important Art Museum in the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum (National Museum) is the most important art museum in the Netherlands. It is dedicated to Dutch art and history.  A must-see museum for any visitor to Amsterdam, its masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen are particularly popular.

Among the Rijksmuseum’s world-famous paintings are Rembrandt’s Night Watch, Portrait of a Couple by Frans Hals, The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, and The Merry Family by Jan Steen.

Johannes Vermeer Paintings at the Rijksmuseum

Aside from The Milkmaid, the Rijksmuseum owns three other works by Vermeer: The Love Letter, The Little Street, and Woman Reading a Letter. All other paintings in the special exhibition are on loan from museums throughout the world.

Largest Vermeer Exhibition: Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Due to the renovation of The Frick Collection in New York, the three Vermeers from that collection — Officer and Laughing Girl, Girl Interrupted at Her Music, and Mistress and Maid — are by rare exception allowed to travel.

A rare exception indeed because Henry Clay Frick, the founder of the museum, stipulated in his will that the works he bequeathed could not be lent. They were to never leave his former home on Fifth Avenue.

The renovation project meant that the collection had to be moved elsewhere anyway. It is temporarily housed at The Met Breuer.

Vermeer’s Homecoming

When The Frick Collection’s renovation project was first announced, in 2015, the Rijksmuseum started efforts to bring the museum’s three Vermeers to the Netherlands.

“The magic word was homecoming” Roelofs told Amsterdam-based daily newspaper Het Parool. “The Americans turned out to be sensitive to that. Like us, they think it is important to introduce a new generation to Vermeer. Because if you’re under forty now, you’ve never had the chance to see a Vermeer exhibition.”

It is the first time in history that the Frick Collection in New York is loaning all three of Vermeer’s paintings from its collection together.

“That was the reason for the Rijksmuseum to organize this Vermeer exhibition,” says Pieter Roelofs, Head of Paintings and Sculpture.1

“It is often said that something is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, which makes it a bit of an empty slogan, but this is really not going to happen again,” Roelofs says.

More Vermeer Paintings?

Last November Rijksmuseum curator Roelofs said one of two additional painting might be coming to Amsterdam as well, “but the chance is very small because there are paintings that are too fragile. That is a no go for us — a painting can itself state whether it can travel. We will never argue with that. But what can travel, comes.”

Eight known Vermeer paintings will not be part of the exhibition.

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer, is one of four paintings by the Dutch master owned by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

These Eight Paintings Will Not Be Part of the Vermeer Exhibition

Eight known Vermeer paintings will not be part of the Rijksmuseum’s exhibition:

  • The Art of Painting (De schilderkunst) (ca. 1666-1668), Kunsthistorisch Museum, Vienna. Also known as The Allegory of Painting, or The Painter in His Studio. This painting once hung in the drawing room of Adolf Hitler’s house on the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden, Austria. According to Dutch broadcaster NOS, “Hitler bought it in 1940 for 1.65 million Reichmarks from an Austrian count. The Allies discovered it, together with The Astronomer, in 1945 in an Austrian salt mine, where a lot of Nazi looted art was also stored. According to the count’s descendants, it was looted art, because he would have been forced to sell it to Hitler, but according to an independent committee, the purchase was lawful.” The Kunsthistorisches Museum says the painting is too fragile to travel. But, writes Financial Dagblad, the Austrian press suggests that something else is at play. The Kunsthistorisches Museum won the descendants’ lawsuit in 2011, but ever since it has been hesitant to see the painting travel.
  • The Astronomer (De astronoom) (1668), Musée du Louvre, Paris. Currently this painting is on display at The Louvre Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. According to Wikipedia, that museum “runs under an agreement between the UAE and France, signed in March 2007, that allows it to use the Louvre’s name until 2037.” Vermeer’s The Astromer was supposed to stay there until October 2022, but the Louvre has recently extended the loan until June 2023 – the month the Vermeer exhibition ends.
  • The Guitar Player (De gitaarspeelster) (1670-1671), Kenwood House, London
  • A Maid Asleep (Slapende jonge vrouw) (1656-1657), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This painting cannot be lent out because the will of the benefactor does not permit it.
  • The Music Lesson (De muziekles) (ca. 1662-1664), Buckingham Palace, London. In 1996 the painting was lent out to the Mauritshuis, but it will not be on view at the Rijksmuseum.
  • Study of a Young Woman (Meisje met de sluier) (1664-1667), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Like A Maid Asleep, the painting cannot be lent out, as stipulated in the donor’s testament.
  • Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (Jonge vrouw met een waterkan) (1662-1664), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
  • Young Woman with a Wine Glass (Jonge vrouw met een wijnglas) (ca. 1659-1661), Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig

Stolen Vermeer Painting: The Concert

There is one additional painting that is not included in the exhibition — because it has been stolen:

  • The Concert (Het concert) (ca. 1662-1664), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

    This painting by Johannes Vermeer was one of 13 works of art stolen on March 18, 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. According to Wikipedia, “Guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call, and the thieves tied the guards up and looted the museum over the next hour. The case is unsolved; no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.”

    The museum offers a $10 million reward for information leading to the art’s recovery. The stolen works have been valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. “Experts believe [the Vermeer painting] may be the most valuable stolen object in the world; as of 2015, it was valued at US$250 million,” Wikipedia notes.

Girl With a Pearl Earring: Temporarily at the Rijksmuseum

Note that Vermeer’s most famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring, will only be on display at the Rijksmuseum until March 30, 2023.

As of April 1, 2023, the painting is again on display at Mauritshuis in The Hague. Museum director Martine Gosseling explains to Financieel Dagblad, “That’s when the flower bulb season starts, our high season. Many visitors from Japan, China and Korea combine a visit to the Keukenhof with a visit to the Mauritshuis.”

Vermeer’s brilliant use of light and color in his intimate domestic scenes earned him the title, “The Master of Light.”

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, is owned by the Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
The painting is part of the Vermeer exhibition at Rijksmuseum

List of Paintings in the Vermeer Exhibition

This is a list of paintings in the Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. We show the English titles, the official Dutch titles, and the approximate date the work was painted. Also shown are the names of the art institutions that have kindly lent the paintings to the Rijksmuseum.

The Frick Collection, New York

  • Officer and Laughing Girl (De soldaat en het lachende meisje) (ca. 1657-1658)
  • Girl Interrupted in Her Music (Onderbreking van de muziek) (ca. 1659-1661)
  • Mistress and Maid (Dame en dienstmeid) (ca. 1665-67)

Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

  • Woman with a Pearl Necklace (Vrouw met parelsnoer) (ca. 1662-1664)
  • The Glass of Wine (Het glas wijn) (ca. 1659-1661)

Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

  • The Procuress (De koppelaarster) (1656)
  • Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (Brieflezend meisje bij het venster) (ca. 1657-1658)

The Leiden Collection, New York

  • Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (Zittende vrouw aan het virginaal) (ca. 1670-1672)

Mauritshuis, The Hague

  • Girl With a Pearl Earring (Meisje met de parel) (ca. 1664-1667)
  • View of Delft (Gezicht op Delft) (ca. 1660-1661)
  • Diana and her Nymphs (Diana en haar Nimfen) (ca. 1655-1656)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Young Woman with a Lute (De luitspeelster) (ca. 1662-1664)
  • Allegory of the Catholic Faith (Allegorie op het geloof) (ca. 1670-1674)

Musée du Louvre, Paris

  • The Lacemaker (De kantwerkster) (ca. 1666-1668)

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

  • The Milkmaid (Het melkmeisje) (ca. 1658-1659)
  • View of Houses in Delft, known as ‘The Little Street’ (Gezicht op huizen in Delft, ‘Het straatje’) (1658-1659)
  • The Love Letter (De liefdesbrief) (ca. 1669-1670)
  • Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (Brieflezende vrouw in blauw) (ca. 1662-1664)

The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

  • Saint Praxedis (Sint Praxedis) (1655)

National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

  • Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (Christus in het huis van Maria en Martha) (ca. 1654-1655)

The National Gallery, London

  • A Young Woman standing at a Virginal (Staande virginaalspeelster) (ca. 1670-1672)
  • A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (Zittende virginaalspeelster) (ca. 1670-1672)

National Gallery of Art, Washington

  • A Lady Writing (Schrijvende vrouw in het geel) (ca. 1664-1667)
  • Girl with the Red Hat (Meisje met de rode hoed) (ca. 1664-1667)
  • Girl with a Flute (Meisje met de fluit) (ca. 1664-1667)
  • Woman Holding a Balance (Vrouw met weegschaal) (ca. 1662-1664)

National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

  • Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid (Schrijvende vrouw met dienstbode) (ca. 1670-1672)

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

  • The Geographer (De geograaf) (1669)

Take a Virtual Tour of Vermeer’s Most Famous Paintings

Nothing beats seeing Vermeer’s paintings in person. But if you cannot do so, nothing prevents you from taking a virtual tour of Vermeer’s most famous works through Google Street View.

Learn More About Johannes Vermeer

This video is from a wonderful YouTube channel called The Art Tourist. Each episode is written and hosted by Rachel, an art journalist-turned-copywriter at The Met, and produced by her husband Jason, a New York City art technician. They promise their videos are “free of charge and impenetrable jargon, but abundant in fascinating facts, illuminating analyses, and entertaining anecdotes.” We think they succeeded. (And we love the two cats).

About this article

This article about the Vermeer Exhibition was written by Anton, Jan, and the rest of the DutchAmsterdam team. We were lucky enough to obtain tickets to this event. We truly enjoyed the paintings, the way they were presented, and the fact that it never seemed too busy to vieuw each of the pantings up close.

Our write-up includes information from the Rijksmuseum, Mauritshuis, The Frick Collection, newspapers Financieel Dagblad and Het Parool, Dutch broadcaster NOS, and several other sources.


  1. Pieter Roelofs specializes in 17th-century Dutch painting and is currently part of the team of Operation Night Watch, the largest research and conservation project to date for Rembrandt’s Night Watch
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