If you can see just one thing in… Dublin


No, it’s not the Book of Kells… Often it’s hard to pick out just one thing as a real highlight from a trip. Dublin’s most famous work of art is undoubtedly the Book of Kells. It’s beautiful but, well, manuscripts however fine don’t really do it for me.

So if you want to see something equally world class make the short walk over to the National Gallery of Ireland. Entry is free and there’s nothing like the volume of people you’ll find queuing up over at Trinity College.

On display you will quickly find a real masterpiece. It’s a great example of Vermeer at his absolute best. We don’t get the single person focus of A Lady Writing a Letter but a more dynamic Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid. 


The two are clearly intimates or the Maid would not be present. Yet, between the women the artist has conveyed a fantastic disconnect. One focuses intently on the message she must write. The other, absent, mindedly stares out through the half revealed window into her thoughts beyond. I’m not a patient person, so I can readily identify with the folded arms and the implicit boredom.

This painting has so many Vermeer motifs: the inside-outside axis, the abstract, geometry, textiles and tightly controlled perspective. Next year it will be the centrepiece of a new and exciting exhibition which will see as many as ten works by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) come to Ireland. This is nearly a third of Vermeer’s surviving oeuvre and, according to the Irish National Gallery, the third highest number of works by the artist ever assembled in the world.

See more at Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, National Gallery of Ireland from 17 June – 17 September 2017. 

Like much of Ireland, the painting has seen its fair share of The Troubles and was even once briefly in the possession of the IRA following a heist in the 1970s.

Thankfully, like much of the very welcoming city we saw this past weekend, the painting is now there and ready for all to see and enjoy.


4 thoughts on “If you can see just one thing in… Dublin”

  1. Really great and well-written post! Your description/discussion of the painting is fantastic. Vermeer was an incredible painter. I was supposed to see “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” when in Den Hague, but the museum closed early that day.


  2. Thanks. Had a very similar and frustrating experience in Brunswick as the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum was closed. Real shame as otherwise with other planned trips would have seen all Vermeer’s works this year. Would have been fab but it will keep!


  3. Yes this is one of the treasure we have in Ireland. I saw it again in the Louvre’s current exhibition where there are a further 10 (approx) Vermeer’s on view. The exhibition then travels to Dublin. Fantastic exhibition!


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