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Vermeer's The Astronomer (c. 1668) is a small painting, measuring only
18 x 20 inches. Nevertheless the detail of the painting is of such a
quality that historians have been able to make out the book on the
astronomer's desk — Metius's Institutiones Astronomicae Geographicae,
Chapter III.

In the late 19th century the painting was acquired by the Rothschild
family. During WWII it was stolen by the Nazis and a swastika was
branded onto the back of the painting. After the war the painting was
returned to the Rothschilds who, ironically, lost it to the French
government in 1983 in order to pay back taxes.

It now hangs in the Louvre.

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