Art: A Rare Twosome

Gifts are fairly showering this week on Washington, D.C. Up on the walls of the National Gallery are two new Old Masters. Both are from the Low Countries: a rare Vermeer and an early 15th century Flemish miniature (see opposite page). Both have touches of mystery in their past. After nearly 400 years both are only now reaching the province of the public eye.

There are only about 40 works in the world solidly attributed to Vermeer, fewer than half a dozen outside of museums. Highly esteemed while he lived, the 17th century master...

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