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BBC Radio 4's Front Row
Art critic William Feaver and novelist Deborah Moggach discuss Vermeer
 real 28k

The BBC's Jo Episcopo
looks at the rising interest in art exhibitions
 real 28k

Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Crowds gather for Vermeers
Vermeer's Young Woman Standing At A Virginal (National Gallery)
Vermeer's use of light lends his works a unique mood
Large crowds have flocked to the opening of the Vermeer and the Delft school exhibition at the National Gallery, London.

More than 10,000 advance tickets - at 8 for an adult - have been sold for the exhibition.

Vermeer's The Milkmaid
The Milkmaid is one of Vermeer's most-admired works
The 13 Vermeer works at the centre of the exhibition have generated such public interest that the gallery will extend its opening hours until 2100BST on Saturdays and Sundays.

"This is the biggest Vermeer exhibition in Britain ever, in terms of the number of paintings," said National Gallery director Neil MacGregor.

The collection had more than half a million visitors when it was shown earlier in the year at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The National Gallery has decided to limit visitor numbers to 270,000 during its three month run in order to retain an air of "quiet contemplation".

Many of the pictures show young women or servants doing everyday or intimate tasks such as writing letters, playing music or pouring milk.

The Dutch town of Delft was one of the most important artistic centres in the Netherlands during the 17th Century.

Silverware

The exhibition consists of 75 paintings by 28 artists, as well as a small collection of gilded silverware.

Christ in the house of Martha and Mary
Vermeer's Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Vermeer himself, who was thought to have had little training, was the son of an innkeeper and part-time art dealer.

The 13 Vermeers on show represent more than a third of the 35 known in the world - the biggest collection to come to Britain since 1921.

The National Gallery is also showing a "36th" Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, which some believe to be genuine, but others believe to be the work of 20th Century Dutch forger Han van Meegeren.

National Gallery curator Axel Ruger has said that the exhibition offers the public an opportunity to compare the work directly with certified Vermeers and make up their own minds.

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