Vermeer paintings attract thousands to Cambridge museum

The Lacemaker (1669-70) by Johannes Vermeer. Courtesy of Reunion des Musees Nationaux/Gerard Blot
Image caption The Lacemaker is thought to be Vermeer's smallest painting

Four paintings by the 17th Century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer have attracted record numbers of visitors to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

More than 130,000 people have seen the exhibition since it opened in October.

It includes The Lacemaker, believed to be Vermeer's smallest work, that was loaned by The Louvre and is on display in the UK for the first time.

The museum will extend its opening hours to cope with demand during the final two weeks of the exhibition.

The popularity of the exhibition - Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence - is believed to be down to the inclusion of The Lacemaker.

Curator Betsy Wiseman said: "The Louvre very rarely lend this painting because it's almost as important in their collection as the Mona Lisa.

"It is a painting that people make a trip especially to the Louvre to see."

'Universal acclaim'

The exhibition also includes A Lady At The Virginals With A Gentleman (The Music Lesson), on loan from The Royal Collection, and A Young Woman Seated At A Virginal, from the National Gallery, London.

A private collector from New York loaned Young Woman Seated At A Virginal, to complete the Vermeer collection.

The exhibition contrasts the artist's work with those of his contemporaries, including Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch and Eglon Hendrik van der Neer.

The museum said between 9,000 and 12,000 people had visited the exhibition each week since its opening.

Director Dr Timothy Potts said: "This is the first time any exhibition at the Fitzwilliam has achieved over 100,000 visitors and there are still some weeks to go.

"The critical and popular acclaim for Vermeer has been universal."

Opening hours at the Fitzwilliam Museum will be extended from 3 January until the close of the exhibition on 15 January.

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