The National Gallery, London
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
+44 20 7747 2885


Explore the musical pastimes of the 17th-century Netherlands through this exhibition combining the art of Vermeer and his contemporaries with rare musical instruments, songbooks and live music.

For the first time the National Gallery’s two paintings by Vermeer, A Young Woman standing at a Virginal and A Young Woman seated at a Virginal are brought together with Vermeer’s Guitar Player, which is currently on exceptional loan from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House.

Music was one of the most popular themes in Dutch painting, and carried many diverse associations. In portraits, a musical instrument or songbook might suggest the education or social position of the sitter; in scenes of everyday life, it might act as a metaphor for harmony, or a symbol of transience. The exhibition displays 17th-century virginals (a type of harpsichord), guitars and lutes alongside the paintings to offer unique insights into the painters’ choice of instruments, and the difference between the real instruments and the way in which the painters chose to represent them.