School of Art, Media, and Technology

Vermeer’s Daughter?: All-day Symposium

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The New York Institute for the Humanities & The Humanities Initiative at NYU invite you to:

An all-day symposium on an unorthodox insurgent theory and how The Academy goes about processing (or failing to process) such renegade notions. Featuring cultural and art historians, curators, artists, writers, philosophers, and others


Saturday, May 18th, 11 am – 6 pm
NYU’s Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street, NYC
{btwn Greene & University Pl)

with Benjamin Binstock (author of Vermeer’s Family Secrets) & Anthony GraftonLinda Nochlin, Ivan GaskellJames ElkinsChuck Close, April GornikVincent Desiderio, Rachel CohenJonathan GilmoreLawrence Weschler & others

Free & Open to the Public 

Details at 

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In his book Vermeer’s Family Secrets, originally published by Routledge in 2009, Cooper Union art history professor Benjamin Binstock proposed that several “problem paintings” in the Vermeer canon as currently understood, including four of them here in New York and two others at the National Gallery in Washington, might actually have been painted by his daughter, Maria, who he further identified as the model for the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Thus far, however, Binstock’s thesis has been met with thunderous silence in the art historical press—itself a fascinating response.  But what if we were to take Binstock’s claims seriously, or at least allow them a fair hearing?  (How might we go about doing so?)  Beyond that, what if we in turn were to think about how such theories make their way through the art historical vetting process?  How generally does scholarship evaluate such claims, and in turn how ought we evaluate how it does so?  And how would our response to certain specific works (such as the National Gallery’s Girl with a Red Hat, which Binstock recasts as a self-portrait) change if Binstock were proven right?

By way of addressing such questions, the NYIH and its partner, the Humanities Initiative at NYU, will be convening an all-day symposium (a sort of book-end to the similar sort of conference convened twelve years ago to evaluate David Hockney’s controversial claim that Old Masters had been deploying optical devices in ways far more widespread than previously believed).  Following a presentation of his theory by Professor Binstock himself, its contentions and implications will in turn be evaluated, sequentially, by panels of art historians and theorists; artists; and more generalized scholars; culminating in a concluding overview by the eminent Princeton cultural and intellectual historian Anthony Grafton.

Other participants will include art historians and theorists Linda Nochlin of the Institute for Fine Arts, Ivan Gaskell of the Bard Graduate Center, and James Elkins of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago; artists Chuck CloseVincent Desiderio,Gerri Davis and April Gornik; and generalists Rachel Cohen (author of A Chance Meeting and a forthcoming biography of Bernard Berenson), NYU Rilke scholar Ulrich Baer, philosopher of aesthetics Jonathan Gilmore (currently visiting at Columbia), and NYU neural scientist David Poeppel.  Lawrence Weschler, Institute Director and Vermeer in Bosnia author, will preside.

Saturday May 18th — Vermeer’s Daughter?

11:00 am     Presentation of a theory 
Benjamin Binstock in conversation with Lawrence Weschler

{1:00 – 1:30 pm — Lunch Break}

1:30 pm      Art historians & theorists respond
Linda Nochlin, Ivan Gaskell, James Elkins

3:00 pm      Artists respond
   Chuck Close, Vincent Desiderio, Gerri Davis, April Gornik

4:30 pm      Generalists respond
Rachel Cohen, Ulrich Baer, Jonathan Gilmore, David Poeppel

5:30 pm      Concluding remarks
Anthony Grafton

For program details and updates, and a brief overview of Benjamin Binstock’s theory, visit  

Read philosopher Alva Nöe’s NPR blog post, “A Fresh Answer to Vermeer’s Mystery.”


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