imuse_header

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vermeer, Johannes


A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
c.1670
oil on canvas
51.5 x 45.5 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

In the left foreground rests a viola da gamba with the bow placed in between the strings. The virginal has a landscape painted on the inside of the lid, and the painting in the background is The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen or a copy of it. Whether or not the subject of The Procuress is intended to have a bearing on the meaning of the whole work is not clear. It is probable that a more general association between music and love is intended. A tapestry frames the scene at the upper left, and the skirting in the lower right is decorated with Delft tiles. (The National Gallery)

"Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife." (Vermeer)

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was the son of a silk worker with a taste for buying and selling art. Vermeer himself was also active in the art trade. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories. His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. He lived and worked in Delft all his life.

Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.