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Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer

Overview
Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (joˈhɑnəs jɑn ʋərˈmeːr; baptized in Delft
Delft
Delft is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland , the Netherlands. It is located between Rotterdam and The Hague....

 on 31 October 1632 as Joannis, and buried in the same city under the name Jan on 15 December 1675) was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class 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.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

s, with a preference for cornflower blue
Cornflower blue
Cornflower blue, a shade of azure, is a shade of light blue with relatively little green compared to blue. This color was one of the favorites of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, the other being yellow....

 and yellow.
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Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (joˈhɑnəs jɑn ʋərˈmeːr; baptized in Delft
Delft
Delft is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland , the Netherlands. It is located between Rotterdam and The Hague....

 on 31 October 1632 as Joannis, and buried in the same city under the name Jan on 15 December 1675) was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class 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.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

s, with a preference for cornflower blue
Cornflower blue
Cornflower blue, a shade of azure, is a shade of light blue with relatively little green compared to blue. This color was one of the favorites of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, the other being yellow....

 and yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. As Koning points out: "Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women".Koning, Hans. 1977. The World of Vermeer. Time-Life Books, New York.

Recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

, his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death; he was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken
Arnold Houbraken
Arnold Houbraken was a Dutch painter and writer from Dordrecht, now remembered mainly as a biographer of artists from the Dutch Golden Age. He had ten children. His son Jacobus Houbraken was an engraver of portraits and book illustrations, including books by his father...

's major source book on 17th century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries.
In the 19th century Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen
Gustav Friedrich Waagen
Gustav Friedrich Waagen was a German art historian.Waagen was born in Hamburg, the son of a painter and nephew of the poet Ludwig Tieck. Having passed through the college of Hirschberg, he volunteered for service in the Napoleonic campaign of 1813-1814, and on his return attended the lectures at...

 and Théophile Thoré-Bürger
Théophile Thoré-Bürger
Étienne-Joseph-Théophile Thoré was a French journalist and art critic. He is best known today for his rediscovery of the work of painter Johannes Vermeer.-Biography:...

, who published an essay attributing sixty-six pictures to him, although only thirty-four paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

.

Life



Relatively little is known about Vermeer's life. He seems to have been exclusively devoted to his art, living out his life in the city of Delft. The only sources of information are some registers, a few official documents and comments by other artists; it was for this reason that Thoré Bürger named him "The Sphinx of Delft".

Youth


On 31 October 1632, Johannes was baptized
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 in the Reformed Church. His father, Reijnier Janszoon, was a middle-class worker of silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 or caffa (a mixture of silk and cotton or wool).His name was Reijnier or Reynier Janszoon, always written in Dutch as Jansz. or Jansz; this was his patronym. As there was another Reijnier Jansz at that time in Delft, it seemed necessary to use the Pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 "Vos", meaning Fox. From 1640 onward he had changed his alias to Vermeer.
As an apprentice in Amsterdam, Reijnier lived on fashionable Sint Antoniesbreestraat
Sint Antoniesbreestraat
The Sint Antoniesbreestraat is a street in the centre of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The street runs south from Nieuwmarkt square to the Sint Antoniesluis sluice gates....

, then a street with many resident painters. In 1615 he married Digna Baltus. The couple moved to Delft and had a daughter, Gertruy, who was baptized in 1620.In 1647 Gertruy, Vermeer's only sister, married a frame maker. She kept on working at the inn helping her parents, serving drinks and making beds. In 1625 Reijnier was involved in a fight with a soldier named Willem van Bylandt, who died from his wounds five months later. Around this time Reijnier began dealing in paintings. In 1631 he leased an inn called "The Flying Fox". In 1641 he bought a larger inn on the market square, named after the Flemish town "Mechelen
Mechelen
Mechelen Footnote: Mechelen became known in English as 'Mechlin' from which the adjective 'Mechlinian' is derived...

". The acquisition of the inn constituted a considerable financial burden. When Vermeer's father died in October 1652, Vermeer assumed operation of the family's art business.

Marriage and family


In April 1653 Johannes Reijniersz Vermeer married a Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 girl, Catharina Bolenes (Bolnes). The blessing took place in a nearby and quiet village Schipluiden
Schipluiden
Schipluiden is a village in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. It is the seat of the council of the municipality of Midden-Delfland....

.In the 17th century it was common for the upper classes to marry outside the city walls, maybe for romantic reasons, or most likely, to avoid criticism because of their religious beliefs. For the groom it was a good match. His mother-in-law, Maria Thins
Maria Thins
Maria Thins was the mother-in-law of Johannes Vermeer and a member of the Gouda Thins family .-Life:...

, was significantly wealthier than he, and it was probably she who insisted Vermeer convert to Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 before the marriage on 5 April.Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 was not a forbidden religion, but tolerated in the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

, due to the Dutch Revolt
Dutch Revolt
The Dutch Revolt or the Revolt of the Netherlands This article adopts 1568 as the starting date of the war, as this was the year of the first battles between armies. However, since there is a long period of Protestant vs...

. Services were held in hidden churches (so-called Schuilkerk
Schuilkerk
A clandestine church , defined by historian Benjamin J. Kaplan as a "semi-clandestine church", is a house of worship used by religious minorities whose communal worship is tolerated by those of the majority faith on condition that it is discreet and not conducted in public spaces...

) and Catholics were restrained in their careers, unable to get high-ranking jobs in city administration or the national government. After 1648 some people were tired of the religious wars and returned to the Catholic church.
Some scholars doubt that Vermeer became Catholic, but one of his paintings, The Allegory of Catholic Faith, made between 1670 and 1672, reflects the belief in the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

. Walter Liedtke in Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests it was made for a Catholic patron, or for a schuilkerk
Schuilkerk
A clandestine church , defined by historian Benjamin J. Kaplan as a "semi-clandestine church", is a house of worship used by religious minorities whose communal worship is tolerated by those of the majority faith on condition that it is discreet and not conducted in public spaces...

, a hidden church.
At some point the couple moved in with Catharina's mother, who lived in a rather spacious house at Oude Langendijk, almost next to a hidden Jesuit church.A Roman Catholic chapel now exists at this spot Here Vermeer lived for the rest of his life, producing paintings in the front room on the second floor. His wife gave birth to 14 children, four of whom were buried before being baptized, but were registered as "child of Johan Vermeer".When Catharina Bolnes was buried in 1688, she was registered as the "widow of Johan Vermeer". In the seventeenth century Johannes was a popular name and spelling was not consistent. The name could be spelled in the Dutch (Johan or Johannes), French (Joan), Italian (Giovanni), Greek (Johannis), or other style depending on background, education or family tradition. From wills written by relatives, the names of ten of Vermeer's children are known: Maria, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, Beatrix, Johannes, Gertruyd, Franciscus, Catharina, and Ignatius. Several of these names carry a religious connotation, and it is likely that the youngest, Ignatius, was named after the founder of the Jesuit order
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus and was its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation...

.As the parish registers of the Delft Catholic church do not exist anymore, it is impossible to prove but likely that his children were baptized in a hidden church.

Career




It is unclear where and with whom Vermeer apprenticed as a painter. Speculation that Carel Fabritius
Carel Fabritius
Carel Fabritius was a Dutch painter and one of Rembrandt's most gifted pupils.-Biography:Fabritius was born in Beemster, the ten-year old polder, as the son of a schoolteacher. Initially he worked as a carpenter . In the early 1640s he studied at Rembrandt's studio in Amsterdam, along with his...

 may have been his teacher is based upon a controversial interpretation of a text written in 1668 by the printer Arnold Bon. Art historians have found no hard evidence to support this. The local authority, Leonaert Bramer
Leonaert Bramer
Leonaert/Leonard Bramer alias Nestelghat was a Dutch painter, best known for probably being one of the teachers of Johannes Vermeer, although there is no similarity between their work. Bramer's dark and exotic style is unlike Vermeer's style...

, acted as a friend but their style of painting is rather different. Liedtke suggests Vermeer taught himself, using information from one of his father's connections. Some scholars think Vermeer was trained under the Catholic painter Abraham Bloemaert
Abraham Bloemaert
Abraham Bloemaert was a Dutch painter and printmaker in etching and engraving. He was one of the "Haarlem Mannerists" from about 1585, but in the new century altered his style to fit new Baroque trends...

. Vermeer's style is similar to that of some of the Utrecht Carravagists, whose works are depicted as paintings-within-paintings in the backgrounds of several of his compositions.Identifiable works include compositions by Utrecht painters Baburen
Dirck van Baburen
Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was a Dutch painter associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti.-Biography:Dirck van Baburen was probably born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young. He was also known as Teodoer van Baburen and Theodor Baburen...

 and Everdingen
Caesar van Everdingen
Cesar Pietersz, or Cesar Boetius van Everdingen , older brother of Allart van Everdingen and Jan van Everdingen, was a Dutch Golden Age portrait and history painter.-Biography:...

In Delft, Vermeer probably competed with Pieter de Hooch
Pieter de Hooch
Pieter de Hooch was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style.-Biography:...

 and Nicolaes Maes
Nicolaes Maes
Nicolaes Maes, also known as Nicolaes Maas was a Dutch Golden Age painter of genre and portraits.-Biography:...

, who produced genre works in a similar style.

On 29 December 1653, Vermeer became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, a trade association for painters. The guild's records make clear that Vermeer did not pay the usual admission fee. It was a year of plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

, war
First Anglo-Dutch War
The First Anglo–Dutch War was the first of the four Anglo–Dutch Wars. It was fought entirely at sea between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Caused by disputes over trade, the war began with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but...

 and economic crisis; Vermeer was not alone in experiencing difficult financial circumstances. In 1654 the city suffered the terrible explosion known as the Delft Thunderclap, which destroyed a large section of the city. In 1657 he might have found a patron in the local art collector Pieter van Ruijven
Pieter van Ruijven
Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven is known as Johannes Vermeer's patron. In 1657, he lent Vermeer 200 guilders. It is not known if he had any trade or profession. Like his father, he worked for the city institution, the Camer van Charitate .In 1653, he married Maria de Knuijt. The couple had one daughter...

, who lent him some money. In 1662 Vermeer was elected head of the guild and was reelected in 1663, 1670, and 1671, evidence that he (like Bramer) was considered an established craftsman among his peers. Vermeer worked slowly, probably producing three paintings a year, and on order. When Balthasar de Monconys
Balthasar de Monconys
Balthasar de Monconys was a French traveller, diplomat, physicist and magistrate, who left a diary, which was published by his son as Journal des voyages de Monsieur de Monconys, Conseiller du Roy en ses Conseils d’Estat & Privé, & Lieutenant Criminel au Siège Presidial de Lyon, 2 vols., Lyon,...

 visited him in 1663 to see some of his work, the diplomat and the two French clergymen who accompanied him were sent to Hendrick van Buyten
Hendrick van Buyten
Hendrick van Buyten was a baker in Delft. He is famous because of his connection to Johannes Vermeer. In August 1663 he owned a painting by Vermeer when he was visited by Balthasar de Monconys. Van Buyten told the diplomat, accompanied by two friends, he had paid 600 guilders for the painting...

, a baker, who had a couple of his paintings as collateral.

In 1671 Gerrit van Uylenburgh
Gerrit van Uylenburgh
Gerrit van Uylenburgh , or Gerrit Uylenburgh, was a Dutch Golden Age painter and art-dealer. He was the eldest son of Hendrick van Uylenburgh and took over the family art-dealing business after Hendrick's death and burial in the Westerkerk church in 1661...

 organised the auction of Gerrit Reynst
Gerrit Reynst
Gerrit Reynst was, like his younger brother Jan , a Dutch merchant and art collector from Amsterdam. He was an alderman and member of the town council, entering it in 1646.-The Collection:Gerrit's collection included Italian old-master paintings and antiquities, such as by Johann Liss...

's collection and offered thirteen paintings and some sculptures to Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
|align=right|Frederick William was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia – and thus ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia – from 1640 until his death. A member of the House of Hohenzollern, he is popularly known as the "Great Elector" because of his military and political prowess...

. Frederick accused them of being counterfeits and had sent twelve back on the advice of Hendrick Fromantiou
Hendrick Fromantiou
Hendrik de Fromantiou was a Dutch still life painter.-Early life:In his youth, he produced works for the art dealer Gerrit van Uylenburgh in Amsterdam and from 1658 he was active in The Hague.-Career:...

. Van Uylenburg then organized a counter-assessment, asking a total of 35 painters to pronounce on their authenticity, including Jan Lievens
Jan Lievens
Jan Lievens was a Dutch painter, usually associated with Rembrandt, working in a similar style.-Biography:According to Arnold Houbraken, Jan was the son of Lieven Hendriksze, a tapestry worker , and was trained by Joris Verschoten. He was sent to Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam at about the age of 10...

, Melchior de Hondecoeter, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout , was a Dutch Golden Age painter and a favourite student of Rembrandt. He was also an etcher, an amateur poet, a collector and an adviser on art.-Biography:...

 and Johannes Vermeer.

In 1672 a severe economic downturn (the "Year of Disaster
Rampjaar
The rampjaar was the year 1672 in Dutch history. In that year,the Republic of the Seven United Provinces was after the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War and the Third Anglo-Dutch War attacked by England, France, and the prince-electors Bernhard von Galen, bishop of Münster and Maximilian Henry of...

") struck the Netherlands, after Louis XIV and a French army invaded the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 from the south (known as the Franco-Dutch War
Franco-Dutch War
The Franco-Dutch War, often called simply the Dutch War was a war fought by France, Sweden, the Bishopric of Münster, the Archbishopric of Cologne and England against the United Netherlands, which were later joined by the Austrian Habsburg lands, Brandenburg and Spain to form a quadruple alliance...

). During the Third Anglo-Dutch War
Third Anglo-Dutch War
The Third Anglo–Dutch War or Third Dutch War was a military conflict between England and the Dutch Republic lasting from 1672 to 1674. It was part of the larger Franco-Dutch War...

 an English fleet and two allied German bishops attacked the country from the east causing more destruction. Many people panicked; courts, theaters, shops and schools were closed. Five years passed before circumstances improved. In the summer of 1675 Vermeer borrowed money in Amsterdam, using his mother-in-law as a surety
Surety
A surety or guarantee, in finance, is a promise by one party to assume responsibility for the debt obligation of a borrower if that borrower defaults...

.

In December 1675 Vermeer fell into a frenzy
Phrenitis
The term phrenitis was employed in ancient Greece by Hippocrates and his followers. It refers to acute inflammation of mind and body, not in a theoretical but in a descriptive sense. Its presumed seat was never anatomically or conceptually well determined...

 and, within a day and a half, died. He was buried in the Protestant Old Church
Oude Kerk (Delft)
The Oude Kerk , nicknamed Oude Jan , is a Gothic Protestant church in the old city center of Delft, the Netherlands. Its most recognizable feature is a 75-meter-high brick tower that leans about two meters from the vertical....

 on 15 December 1675. Catharina Bolnes attributed her husband's death to the stress of financial pressures. The collapse of the art market damaged Vermeer's business as both a painter and an art dealer. She, having to raise 11 children, asked the High Court to relieve her of debts owed to Vermeer's creditors. The Dutch microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who worked for the city council as a surveyor
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

, was appointed trustee
Trustee
Trustee is a legal term which, in its broadest sense, can refer to any person who holds property, authority, or a position of trust or responsibility for the benefit of another...

. The house, with eight rooms on the first floor, was filled with paintings, drawings, clothes, chairs, and beds. In his atelier
Studio
A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

 there were two chairs, two painter's easels, three palettes, ten canvases, a desk, an oak pull table, a small wooden cupboard with drawers and "rummage not worthy being itemized". Nineteen of Vermeer's paintings were bequeathed to Catharina and her mother. The widow sold two more paintings to Hendrick van Buyten
Hendrick van Buyten
Hendrick van Buyten was a baker in Delft. He is famous because of his connection to Johannes Vermeer. In August 1663 he owned a painting by Vermeer when he was visited by Balthasar de Monconys. Van Buyten told the diplomat, accompanied by two friends, he had paid 600 guilders for the painting...

 in order to pay off a substantial debt for delivered bread.

Vermeer had been a respected artist in Delft, but almost unknown outside his home town. The fact that a local patron, Pieter van Ruijven, purchased much of his output reduced the possibility of his fame spreading.Van Ruijven's son-in-law Jacob Dissius
Jacob Dissius
Jacob Abrahamsz. Dissius was a Dutch typographer and printer. He is most notable as an art collector and for his links to Johannes Vermeer - his collection included 21 Vermeer works and in 1680 he married Madgdalene, daughter...

 owned 21 paintings by Vermeer, listed in his heritage in 1695. These paintings were sold the year after in Amsterdam in a much studied auction, published by Gerard Hoet
Gerard Hoet
-Biography:Gerard Hoet trained with his father and brother who were glass painters, and Warnard van Rijsen, who lived in Zaltbommel, and who himself was a pupil of Cornelis van Poelenburgh in Utrecht. In 1672 Hoet moved to The Hague, but when the Count of Salis bought paintings at his mother's...

.
Several factors contributed to his limited oeuvre. Vermeer never had any pupils and therefore there was no school of Vermeer. His family obligations with so many children may have taken up much of his time as would acting as both an art-dealer and inn-keeper in running the family businesses. His time spent serving as head of the guild and his extraordinary precision as a painter may have also limited his output.

Style




Like most painters of his time, Vermeer probably first executed his paintings tonally, using either only shades of gray ("grisaille"), or a limited palette of browns and grays ("dead coloring"), over which more saturated colors (reds, yellows and blues) were applied in the form of glazes.
Vermeer produced transparent colours by applying paint to the canvas in loosely granular layers, a technique called pointillé
Pointillé
Pointillé is a decorative technique in which patterns are formed on a surface by a means of punched dots. The technique is similar to embossing or engraving but is done manually and does not cut into the surface being decorated. Pointillé was commonly used to decorate arms and armor starting in...

 (not to be confused with pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works...

). No drawings have been positively attributed to Vermeer, and his paintings offer few clues to preparatory methods. David Hockney
David Hockney
David Hockney, CH, RA, is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer, who is based in Bridlington, Yorkshire and Kensington, London....

, among other historians and advocates of the Hockney–Falco thesis, has speculated that Vermeer used a camera obscura
Camera obscura
The camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side...

 to achieve precise positioning in his compositions, and this view seems to be supported by certain light and perspective
Perspective (graphical)
Perspective in the graphic arts, such as drawing, is an approximate representation, on a flat surface , of an image as it is seen by the eye...

 effects. The often-discussed sparkling pearly highlights in Vermeer's paintings have been linked to this possible use of a camera obscura, the primitive lens of which would produce halation
Halo (optical phenomenon)
A halo from Greek ἅλως; also known as a nimbus, icebow or gloriole) is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals creating colored or white arcs and spots in the sky. Many are near the sun or moon but others are elsewhere and even in the opposite part of the sky...

. Exaggerated perspective can be seen in Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman
The Music Lesson
The Music Lesson or Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman by Johannes Vermeer, also known as Jan Vermeer, is a painting of young female pupil receiving the titular music lesson. It has been estimated to have been painted between 1662 and 1665. The medium of the work is oil on canvas...

 (London, Royal Collection
Royal Collection
The Royal Collection is the art collection of the British Royal Family. It is property of the monarch as sovereign, but is held in trust for her successors and the nation. It contains over 7,000 paintings, 40,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 150,000 old master prints, as well as historical...

). Vermeer's interest in optics is also attested in this work by the accurately observed mirror reflection above the lady at the virginals.

However, the extent of Vermeer's dependence upon the camera obscura is disputed by historians. There is no historical evidence. The detailed inventory of the artist's belongings drawn up after his death does not include a camera obscura or any similar device. Scientific evidence is limited to inference. Philip Steadman has found six Vermeer paintings that are precisely the right size if they were inside a camera obscura where the back wall of his studio was where the images were projected.

There is no other seventeenth-century artist who early in his career employed, in the most lavish way, the exorbitantly expensive pigment lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

, or natural ultramarine
Ultramarine
Ultramarine is a blue pigment consisting primarily of a double silicate of aluminium and sodium with some sulfides or sulfates, and occurring in nature as a proximate component of lapis lazuli...

. Vermeer not only used this in elements that are naturally of this colour; the earth colours umber
Umber
Umber is a natural brown clay pigment which contains iron and manganese oxides. The color becomes more intense when calcined , and the resulting pigment is called burnt umber. Its name derives from the Latin word umbra and was originally extracted in Umbria, a mountainous region of central Italy,...

 and ochre
Ochre
Ochre is the term for both a golden-yellow or light yellow brown color and for a form of earth pigment which produces the color. The pigment can also be used to create a reddish tint known as "red ochre". The more rarely used terms "purple ochre" and "brown ochre" also exist for variant hues...

 should be understood as warm light within a painting's strongly-lit interior, which reflects its multiple colours onto the wall. In this way, he created a world more perfect than any he had witnessed. This working method most probably was inspired by Vermeer’s understanding of Leonardo’s
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 observations that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent object. This means that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural colour.

A comparable but even more remarkable, yet effectual, use of natural ultramarine is in The Girl with a Wineglass. The shadows of the red satin dress are underpainted
Underpainting
In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help to define colour values for later painting...

 in natural ultramarine, and, owing to this underlying blue paint layer, the red lake and vermilion
Vermilion
Vermilion is an opaque orangish red pigment, similar to scarlet. As a naturally occurring mineral pigment, it is known as cinnabar, and was in use around the world before the Common Era began. Most naturally produced vermilion comes from cinnabar mined in China, and vermilion is nowadays commonly...

 mixture applied over it acquires a slightly purple, cool and crisp appearance that is most powerful.

Even after Vermeer’s supposed financial breakdown following the so-called rampjaar (year of disaster) in 1672, he continued to employ natural ultramarine generously, such as in Lady Seated at a Virginal. This could suggest that Vermeer was supplied with materials by a collector, and would coincide with John Michael Montias
John Michael Montias
John Michael Montias was an economist and art historian, well-known for his contributions to the economic history of Dutch Golden Age painting. Born in Paris, he studied at Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D in Soviet bloc economics in 1958. He subsequently taught economics at Yale...

’ theory of Pieter van Ruijven being Vermeer’s patron.

His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

. 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 splendour of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. Besides these subjects, religious, poetical, musical, and scientific comments can also be found in his work.

Works




Only three paintings are dated: The Procuress
The Procuress (Vermeer)
The Procuress is a 1656 oil-on-canvas painting by Jan Vermeer. It shows a genre scene in a brothel - one of the two women is the eponymous procuress, while the figure on the left has been identified by some as a self portrait of the artist...

 (1656, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie), The Astronomer
The Astronomer (painting)
The Astronomer is a painting finished about 1668 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is oil on canvas, 51 cm x 45 cm , and is on display at the Louvre, Paris....

 (1668, Paris, Louvre), and The Geographer
The Geographer
The Geographer is a painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in 1668–1669, and is now in the collection of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut museum in Frankfurt, Germany.-Description:...

 (1669, Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut).

Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, owned Dirck van Baburen
Dirck van Baburen
Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was a Dutch painter associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti.-Biography:Dirck van Baburen was probably born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young. He was also known as Teodoer van Baburen and Theodor Baburen...

's 1622 oil-on-canvas Procuress (or a copy of it), which appears in the background of two of Vermeer's paintings. The same subject was also painted by Vermeer. After his own 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 grays. 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 a pearly light. Mundane domestic or recreational activities become thereby imbued with a poetic timelessness (e.g. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window
Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window
Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is an oil painting by Dutch Baroque painter Johannes Vermeer. Completed in approximately 1657–1659, the well-preserved painting is on display at the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden...

, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie). To this period also have been allocated Vermeer's two townscapes, View of Delft (The Hague, Mauritshuis) and A street in Delft
The Little Street (Vermeer)
The Little Street is a painting by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, executed c. 1657-1658. It is housed in the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, and signed left below the window with the writing "I V MEER".-See also:...

 (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
The Allegory of Faith
The Allegory of Faith, also known as Allegory of the Catholic Faith is a painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in about 1670-1672 and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 1931....

 (c 1670, New York, Metropolitan Museum) and The Love Letter (c 1670, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).

Legacy



  • Upon the rediscovery of Vermeer's work in the 19th century, several prominent Dutch artists, including Simon Duiker
    Simon Duiker
    Simon Liekele Eeltje Duiker was a Dutch painter.Duiker lived and worked in Amsterdam and studied at its National Academy. He painted interior scenes and still life paintings. His work depicts middle class Dutch life, particularly men and women at work in the home.Duiker was greatly influenced by...

    , modelled their style on his work.
  • Vermeer's View of Delft features in a pivotal sequence of Marcel Proust's
    Marcel Proust
    Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

     The Captive
    In Search of Lost Time
    In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust. His most prominent work, it is popularly known for its considerable length and the notion of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine." The novel is widely...

    .
  • Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

    , with great admiration for Vermeer, painted his own version of The Lacemaker and pitted large copies of the original against a rhinoceros in some now-famous surrealist experiments. Dali also immortalized the Dutch Master in The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table
    The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table
    The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table is a painting by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. The title refers to the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and the image of Vermeer viewed from his back is a reference to Vermeer's painting The Art of Painting.In this image Vermeer is...

    , 1934.
  • Han van Meegeren
    Han van Meegeren
    Han van Meegeren , born Henricus Antonius van Meegeren, was a Dutch painter and portraitist, and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century....

     was a 20th-century Dutch painter who worked in the classical tradition. Motivated by a blend of aesthetic and financial reasons, van Meegeren became a master forger, creating and selling many new 'Vermeers' before being caught and tried.
  • Peter Greenaway
    Peter Greenaway
    Peter Greenaway, CBE is a British film director. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular...

    's film A Zed & Two Noughts
    A Zed & Two Noughts
    Elements of Michael Nyman's score invoke the "Dies Irae" section from Heinrich Ignaz Biber's Requiem ex F con terza minore. The Angelfish Decay/Swan Rot/L'Escargot theme was originally written for Childs Play, a dance work commissioned by Lucinda Childs. Performance of the soundtrack is credited...

     (1985) contains a plot line about an orthopedic surgeon named Van Meegeren who stages highly exact scenes from Vermeer paintings in order to paint copies of them.
  • Dutch composer Louis Andriessen
    Louis Andriessen
    Louis Andriessen is a Dutch composer and pianist based in Amsterdam. He teaches composition at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague...

     based his opera, Writing to Vermeer (1997–98, libretto by Peter Greenaway), on the domestic life of Vermeer.
  • Tracy Chevalier
    Tracy Chevalier
    Tracy Chevalier is a bestselling historical novelist. She lives in London with her husband and son.Chevalier was raised in Washington, D.C and graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland. After receiving her B.A...

    's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring
    Girl with a Pearl Earring (novel)
    Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 1999 historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier. Set in 17th century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by Delft school painter Johannes Vermeer's painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model, and the painting...

     and the film of the same name
    Girl with a Pearl Earring (film)
    Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 2003 drama film directed by Peter Webber. The screenplay was adapted by screenwriter Olivia Hetreed based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, and Cillian Murphy. The film is named after a painting of the same...

     (2003) are named after the painting; they present a fictional account of its creation by Vermeer and his relationship with the model. The film was nominated for Oscars in cinematography, art direction, and costume design.
  • Susan Vreeland's novel Girl in Hyacinthe Blue follows eight individuals with a relationship to a painting of Vermeer. The novel follows a reverse chronology from the current period to the time of Vermeer.
  • The young adult novel Chasing Vermeer
    Chasing Vermeer
    Chasing Vermeer is a 2004 children's art mystery novel written by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist. Set in Hyde Park, Chicago near the University of Chicago, the novel follows two children, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee...

     by Blue Balliett
    Blue Balliett
    Blue Balliett is an American author, best known for her award-winning novel for children, Chasing Vermeer.Chasing Vermeer, released by Scholastic Press in 2004, is her best known and most highly praised book. Illustrated by Brett Helquist, it concerns the fictitious theft of a painting by...

     centers around the fictitious theft of Vermeer's A Lady Writing
    A Lady Writing a Letter
    A Lady Writing a Letter is an oil painting attributed to 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is believed to have been completed around 1665. The Lady is seen to be writing a letter and has been interrupted, so gently turns her head to see what is happening...

    .
  • Historian Timothy Brook
    Timothy Brook (historian)
    Timothy James Brook , who writes as Timothy Brook and who has had many academic works published, is a distinguished historian specializing in the study of China...

    's Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World
    Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World
    Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World is a book by the historian Professor Timothy Brook in which he explores the roots of world trade in the 17th century, through six paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer...

     (2007) examines six of Vermeer's paintings for evidence of world trade
    International trade
    International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

     and globalization
    Globalization
    Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

     during the Dutch Golden Age.
  • A 2010 Epsom Derby Favourite was named Jan Vermeer.
  • Two Vermeer paintings, Girl with a Pearl Earring
    Girl with a Pearl Earring
    Girl with a Pearl Earring is a painting by Johannes Vermeer.Girl With a Pearl Earring may also refer to:* Girl with a Pearl Earring , by Tracy Chevalier* Girl with a Pearl Earring...

     and The Milkmaid
    The Milkmaid (Vermeer)
    The Milkmaid , sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, is an oil-on-canvas painting of a "milkmaid", in fact a domestic kitchen maid, by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer...

    , are obtainable in the Animal Crossing
    Animal Crossing
    The Animal Crossing games have garnered positive response. The first three games are among the best-selling for their respective consoles. Animal Crossing has sold 2.321 million copies; Wild World 10.79 million; and City Folk 3.38 million...

     video game series as the "Wistful Painting" and the "Quaint Painting", respectively.
  • The song "No one was like Vermeer" by Bostonian singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman
    Jonathan Richman
    Jonathan Michael Richman is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. In 1970 he founded The Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, generally acoustic backing...

     pays tribute to Vermeer's painstaking technique.
  • Bob Walkenhorst in his solo album "The Beginner" wrote a rockabilly
    Rockabilly
    Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating to the early 1950s.The term rockabilly is a portmanteau of rock and hillbilly, the latter a reference to the country music that contributed strongly to the style's development...

     song, "Jan Vermeer", which begins with "I wish I could dance like Jan Vermeer!"
  • J.P. Smith's novel, The Discovery of Light, deals largely with Vermeer.

External links