Vermeer as an Ambassador


Exclusive Cynthia Schneider interview, taped in Amsterdam, Feb 27, 2003.

"Hello, I am Cynthia Schneider. I am a professor of Art History at Georgetown University and I had the great privilege and pleasure of serving as the U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands from 1998 to 2001.

And I have always thought of Johannes Vermeer as - in a way - an ambassador for the Netherlands and also as an ambassador for art.

That is because his art represents to me the epitomy of 17th century Holland with its emphasis on the home unit, on the interior, on the simple beauties of home life and in finding beauty in the most simple things - because in seventeenth century Holland the home and the family were valued in a way as they had never had been before and Vermeer gives us a wonderful insight in this world.

Vermeer is also an ambassador for art because of the sheer quality of his work. It is of the highest possible quality and the most extraordinary beauty both in the way that he arranges his paintings and the way he literary applies the paint. And he shows us that great art is indeed a universal language, accessible to everyone.

None of us who live in Washington DC will ever forget the extraordinary time when the Vermeer exhibition was there. I had the great pleasure of being able to take my students several times to the exhibition - but as it became more popular and better known towards the end of its run, it was nearly impossible to get in - and I had the nerve to assign papers to my students nonetheless, because I really wanted my students to spend time in it. Anyway, my students actually got up, and this for students this was quite a feat - at 4 in the morning and stood for hours at end in the museum in line in the February weather just to be able to get into the exhibition.

And during the last weekend there were people who were literally camping in the sidewalk overnight in February to be able to see the exhibition. And I think that sais a lot about how Vermeer speaks to everyone.



This page forms part of a large encyclopedic site on Vermeer and Delft. Research by Drs. Kees Kaldenbach (email). A full presentation is on view at

Launched December, 2002; Last update March 1, 2017.

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