User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

MFA Book Club: Chasing Vermeer

This online gallery supports the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer October 11, 2015-January 18, 2015 

This lesson focuses on the book, Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett. This mystery follows two 6th grade students as they uncover a mystery revolving around Johannes Vermeer's A Lady Writing. Art theft, something that is still a current topic with the unresolved Isabella Gardner heist in 1990, is another area that this literacy lesson discusses.

Johannes Vermeer was the son of a silk maker and lived in Delft his whole life.  He joined the local painter’s guild, St. Luke’s. This lesson focuses on his later work, quiet interiors of women that were immersed in incredible light. Vermeer is now one of the most famous Dutch artists in the world yet he did not have that reputation during his life. He died in debt but today his paintings are worth millions.

Each slide focuses on a specific part of the book and page numbers are given in the slide notes. Please see additional resources for more sources and extensions to this online lesson. 


Learning goals:

In this gallery, you will discover

·      A collection of Vermeer paintings and their connections to the text, Chasing Vermeer

·      Information about an actual art heist and comparison to art theft within the book

·      Stories of individuals within visual art

This discovery will require students to:

-Look closely at the compositions and make observations based on visual evidence. 

-Make connections between the visual art and text, Chasing Vermeer


Using this resource: 

·      Literacy teachers and students will be interested in connections between the text Chasing Vermeer and the visual images

      Literacy teachers and students will be interested in building critical thinking skills using details from the images to support thinking

·      Visual Art teachers and students will be interested in the unique style of Vermeer

·      History teachers and students will be interested in the details of the Gardner heist and discussion of art theft

·      History teachers and students will be interested in the Vermeer paintings and their connections to 17th century Dutch society and the perception of Vermeer in today's society

The objects in this lesson are just the beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum’s online collection through this web source—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide further insights into this exhibition

Related Resources