Vermeer in Munich. King Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a Collector of Old Masters

Johannes Vermeer, “Woman Holding a Balance”, c. 1664. © National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Johannes Vermeer, “Woman Holding a Balance”, c. 1664. © National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first king of Bavaria, Max I Joseph (1756-1825), amassed a private art collection of the highest quality. He focused almost exclusively on 17th century Dutch masters, mostly landscapes and genre paintings. To these he added the works of contemporary painters in Munich who were inspired by such Old Masters. In December 1826, the private royal collection was sold at auction. Some exceptional works were acquired for the state collections; others found their way to the Alte Pinakothek via roundabout routes - as part of Ludwig I's collection, for example; many are now scattered far afield. From today's point of view, the greatest loss is a masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer: "Woman Holding a Balance" of 1664. This exquisite work is returning to Munich from the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a three-month period. Surrounded by other exceptional paintings from the "Golden Age" - including works by Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem van de Velde the Younger and Philips Wouwerman - it gives visitors the opportunity to discover Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a collector of Old Masters.

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