“Definitely a Vermeer”

January 18, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART | 0 Comments |

(Johannes Vermeer, c. 31 October 1632 – c. 16 December 1675)

The Master of the Domestic Interior Scene lit by a side window, akin to Trollope’s novels in their chronicling of ‘small beer,’ Jan Vermeer was the greatest Dutch painter along with Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Vincent van Gogh. The purity of his forms, figures, objects and in particular, light – the peerless and meticulous precision with which he rendered quiet goings-on in modest Dutch dwellings – make his imitation of created nature (natura naturata) by a complete encapsulation of a scene (with the help of camera obscura) worthy of the Painterly Pantheon.  Look at Girl With a Pearl Earring or The Astronomer for the superb symbiosis of light on face, fabric, tools of trade, decoration.

Only 30 or so of his works survive and he was not a successful man. Dying a pauper, he now lies in the Oude Kerk at Delft.  But he is no longer in a position to fuss about that, and he seems to have been happy in the instinctual vibe that his art would live on (he was a convert to Catholicism).  E.H. Gombrich wrote of him: “Vermeer seems to have been a slow and careful worker. He did not paint very many pictures in his life. Few of them represent any important scenes…His paintings are really still lifes with human beings…Vermeer achieves complete and painstaking precision in the rendering of textures, colours and forms without the picture ever looking laboured or harsh…It is this strange and unique combination of mellowness and precision which makes his best paintings so unforgettable. They make us see the quiet beauty of a simple scene with fresh eyes and give us an idea of what the artist felt when he watched the light flooding through the window and heightening the colour of a piece of cloth.”*

File:Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665).jpg

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1665) (possibly modelled on the artist’s daughter, Maria)

File:1657 Vermeer Officer and Laughing Girl anagoria.jpg

“Officer with a Laughing Girl” (1657)

File:Johannes Vermeer - Het melkmeisje - Google Art Project.jpg

“The Milkmaid: (c. 1658)

File:Jan Vermeer - The Art of Painting - Google Art Project.jpg

“The Painter in his Studio” (1666-1668)

File:Vermeer The Concert.jpg

“The Concert” (1663–6)

File:Johannes Vermeer - Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman, 'The Music Lesson' - Google Art Project.jpg

“The Music Lesson” (c. 1662-1664)

File:Jan Vermeer van Delft 003.jpg

“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” (1657–1659)

File:DublinVermeer.jpg

“Lady writing a letter with her maid” (c. 1670-1671)

File:Vermeer young women sleeping.jpg

“A Girl Asleep” (1657) Tsk, tsk, drinking in the afternoons…

File:Jan Vermeer van Delft - The Glass of Wine - Google Art Project.jpg

“The Glass of Wine” (1658/1660)

File:Vermeer, Johannes - Woman reading a letter - ca. 1662-1663.jpg

Bad news from an errant expectant father? “Woman reading a letter” (c. 1662/63)

File:Jan Vermeer van Delft 019.jpg

“Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” (c. 1662-1665)

File:View of Delft, by Johannes Vermeer.jpg

“View of Delft” (c.1660-61)

File:Johannes Vermeer - The lacemaker (c.1669-1671).jpg

“The Lacemaker” (c. 1669-1671)

File:Johannes Vermeer, Allegory of the Catholic Faith, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg

“Allegory of the Catholic Faith” (1670-72)

File:Vermeer, Johannes - The Loveletter.jpg

“The Love Letter” (c. 1669/70) [Subject of TVC’s Caption Contest awhile back…]

File:Johannes Vermeer - The Astronomer - WGA24685.jpg

“The Astronomer” (c. 1668)

File:Johannes Vermeer - The Procuress - Google Art Project.jpg

“The Procuress” (1656) [The young man at left enthusiastically procuring is believed to be a self-portrait]

In Agatha Christie‘s murder mystery After the Funeral, the plot point pivots around an obscure painting that is identified as “Definitely a Vermeer.” When one looks over the works above, one can say that each are ‘definitely a Vermeer.”

[* E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art, p 329.]

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