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VERMEER

(Jan Vermeer, 1632-75)

Dutch painter. He specialized in domestic interiors, portraits and city views. His entire life was spent in Delft, where, it has been suggested, he may have been trained by Leonaert Bramer or Carel Fabritius. His work does indeed show an affinity with that of Fabritius, but their relationship remains uncertain. Vermeer was a Master in the Delft painters' guild from 1653, was elected Dean (hoofdman) in 1662-3 and 1670-71, and was highly regarded in his lifetime, although he seems to have never been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and 11 children in debt at his death. His name and reputation were almost forgotten until 1866 when the art critic Thoré Burger published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him (only 34 paintings are firmly attributed to him today). The few contemporary references to his paintings all relate to surviving works, so it is unlikely that there were ever many more - he may have been a slow worker and probably (like many Dutch painters of this period) had another source of income - a trip to The Hague in 1672 to authenticate some paintings suggests that he may have been a picture dealer.
A chronology of Vermeer's work is complicated by the fact that only three paintings are dated: The Procuress (1656, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie), The Astronomer (1668, private collection), and The Geographer (1669, Frankfurt, Städelsches). Two pictures are generally accepted as earlier than The Procuress; both are history paintings, painted in a warm palette and in a relatively large format for Vermeer -Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (Edinburgh, National Gallery) and Diana and her Companions (The Hague, Mauritshuis). After The Procuress almost all of Vermeer's paintings are of contemporary subjects in a smaller format, with a cooler palette dominated by blues, yellows and greys. It is to this period that practically all of his surviving works belong. They are usually domestic interiors with one or two figures lit by a window on the left. They are characterized by a serene sense of compositional balance and spatial order, unified by an almost pearly light. Mundane domestic or recreational activities become thereby imbued with a poetic timelessness (e.g. Woman Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie). To this period also have been allocated Vermeer's two townscapes, View of Delft (The Hague, Mauritshuis) and A Street in Delft (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). A few of his paintings show a certain hardening of manner and these are generally thought to represent his late works. From this period come The Allegory of Faith (c 1670, New York, Metropolitan Museum) and The Letter (c 1670, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).
The often discussed sparkling pearly highlights in Vermeer's paintings have been linked to his probable use of a camera obscura, the primitive lens of which would produce halation and, even more noticeably, exaggerated perspective. Such effects can be seen in Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman (London, Royal Collection). Vermeer's interest in optics is also attested in this work by the accurately observed mirror reflection above the lady at the virginals.

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Vermeer, Jan Young Woman with a Water Pitcher c. 1664-65 Oil on canvas 18 x 16 in. (45.7 x 40.6 cm) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Vermeer, Jan Woman in Blue Reading a Letter c. 1663-1664 Oil on canvas 46.6 x 39.1 cm (18 11/32 x 15 13/32 in.) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Vermeer, Jan View of Delft c. 1660-1661 Oil on canvas 96.5 x 115.7 cm (38 x 45 9/16 in.) Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague

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Vermeer, Jan The Art of Painting Detail of the Model c. 1666-1673 Oil on canvas 130 x 110 cm Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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Vermeer, Jan The Art of Painting Detail of the artist c. 1666-1673 Oil on canvas 130 x 110 cm Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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Vermeer, Jan The Procuress 1656 Oil on canvas 143 x 130 cm Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister - Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

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Vermeer, Jan Girl with a Pearl Earring c. 1665-1666 Oil on canvas 44.5 x 39 cm (17 1/2 x 15 3/8 in.) Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague

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Vermeer, Jan Mistress and Maid c. 1667-68 Oil on canvas 35 1/2 x 31 in. (90.2 x 78.7 cm) Frick Collection, New York

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Vermeer, Jan The Milkmaid c. 1658-60 Oil on canvas 17 7/8 x 16 1/8 in. (45.5 x 41 cm) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Vermeer, Jan detail in The Music Lesson c. 1662-1665 Oil on canvas 74.6 x 64.1 cm Royal Collection, St. James' Palace, London

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Vermeer, Jan The Music Lesson c. 1662-1665 Oil on canvas 74.6 x 64.1 cm Royal Collection, St. James' Palace, London

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Vermeer, Jan Soldier and a Laughing Girl c. 1658 Oil on canvas 49.2 x 44.4 cm The Frick Collection, New York

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Vermeer, Jan Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid c. 1670 Oil on panel 72.2 x 59.7 cm (28 13/32 x 23 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

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Vermeer, Jan The Lacemaker c. 1669-1670 Oil on canvas transferred to panel 23.9 x 20.5 cm (9 13/32 x 8 1/2 in.) Musee du Louvre, Paris

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Vermeer, Jan The Guitar Player c. 1672 Oil on canvas 53 x 46.3 cm Kenwood, English Heritage

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Vermeer, Jan The Girl with the Red Hat c. 1665 Oil on panel 22.8 x 18 cm (9 x 7 1/16 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington

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Vermeer, Jan The Geographer c. 1668-1669 Oil on canvas 52 x 45.5 cm (20 1/2 x 17 15/16 in.) Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main

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Vermeer, Jan Street in Delft c. 1657-1658 Oil on canvas 54.3 x 44 cm Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Vermeer, Jan The Concert c. 1665-66 Oil on canvas 28 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (72.5 x 64.7 cm) Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

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Vermeer, Jan Woman Holding a Balance c. 1664 Oil on canvas 40.3 x 35.6 cm (15 7/8 x 14 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington

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Vermeer, Jan A Woman Asleep c. 1657 Oil on canvas 34 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (87.6 x 76.5 cm) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Vermeer, Jan The Art of Painting c. 1666-1673 Oil on canvas 130 x 110 cm Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

vermeer_Woman_Playing_a_Lute_near_a_Window

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Woman Playing a Lute near a Window. c.1664. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

vermeer_Girl_Reading_a_Letter_at_an_Open_Window

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. c.1657. Oil on canvas. Alte Meister Gallerie, Dresden, Germany.

vermeer_Woman_in_Blue_Reading_a_Letter

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. c.1662-1664. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

vermeer_Lady_Writing_a_Letter

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Lady Writing a Letter. c.1665-1670. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

vermeer_Lady_with_Her_Maidservant

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Lady with Her Maidservant. c.1667-1668. Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection, New York, USA.

vermeer_Woman_with_a_Pearl_Necklace

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Woman with a Pearl Necklace. c.1664. Oil on canvas. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.

vermeer_Woman_Weighing_Pearls

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Woman Weighing Pearls. c.1662-1664. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

vermeer_Girl_with_a_Pearl_Earring

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Girl with a Pearl Earring. c.1665. Oil on canvas. Mauritshuis, the Hague, Netherlands.

vermeer_Head_of_a_Girl

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Head of a Girl. c.1666-1667. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

vermeer_Girl_with_a_Red_Hat

Vermeer

Vermeer

Jan Vermeer. Girl with a Red Hat. c.1666-1667. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.