May 23, 2011
The painting I have been working on , The Music Lesson, has not only became an inspiration for other Dutch painters, but it has also served as an inspiration for many poets and writers.
As an example of that here we have an interesting poem written by Mary Oliver in 1978 on which the author tries to tell us the story that is narrated in Vermeer´s painting from the point of view of the cavalier:
Sometimes, in the middle of the lesson,
we exchanges places. She would gaze a moment at her hands
spread over the keys; then the small house with its knickknacks,
its shut windows,
its photographs of her sons and the serious husband,
vanished as new shapes formed. Sound
became music, and music a white
scarp for the listener to climb
alone. I leaped rock over rock to the top
and found myself waiting, transformed,
and still she played, her eyes luminous and willful,
her pinned hair falling down –
forgetting me, the house, the neat green yard,
she fled in that lick of flame all tedious bonds:
supper, the duties of flesh and home,
the knife at the throat, the death in the metronome.
As it can be seen in the first lines of this poem, it is opened with a reference to the music teacher that is sitting at the piano who is explaining that sometimes he changes his place and lets his student to play the instrument to enjoy the music.
In the second and on the third stanzas we find how the music teacher is lost in her lonely, loveless and ordered life and that she finds expression in her music, an intimacy that exists nowhere else in “the small house with its knickknacks/ its shut windows”.
In the last stanza we have the image of that this woman lives in a tidy world and that she plays music to escape the entrapment of her life, to allow for a moment of passion to be present.
-This Writing Life: “Music Lesson” by Mary Oliver 1978. Retrieved 22 May from http://noelduffy.blogspot.com/2011/02/music-lesson-by-mary-oliver-1978.html
Most of Vermeer’s paintings are never depicted looking out directly at the viewer. In fact, only three of his paintings portray women looking out at the viewer. This is the case of Lady Standing at a Virginal, A Lady Writing and the Lady Seated at a Virginal.
Lady standing at a Virginal
Lady Seated at a Virginal
A Lady Writing
Most of his contemporaries never depicted women looking out at the viewer and, only Gabriel Metsu in his painting Woman writing a Letter represents the woman looking out at the viewer as she writes. In this case, it is said that he was probably influenced by the Vermeer’s A Lady Writing.
Gabriel Metsu’s Woman writing a Letter
- Essential Vermeer. The complete interactive Vermeer catalogue. Retrieved on May 15, 2011, from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/lady_writing.html
- Understanding a Lady Standing at a Virginal. Retrieved on May 21, 2011, from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/standing.html
- A Lady Seated at a Virginal. Retrieved on May 21, 2011, from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/standing.html
May 22, 2011
While I was doing some research, I came across this mystery novel which deals with the theft of one of Vermeer’s paintings: A Lady Writing, which is actually the painting I have been working on the whole semester.
Chasing Vermeer is a children mystery novel dealing with the theft of Vermeer’s A Lady Writing written by Blue Balliet and illustrated by Brett Helquist. The novel is set in Hyde Park, Chicago. The thief responsible for the disappearance of the painting claims that he will not give the painting back to the museum unless the community figures out which paintings under Vermeer’s name were actually painted by him. As a consequence, the community and, especially two children, Calder and Petra, start examining art more carefully in order to get the painting back.
The themes of this novel are various: art, chance, coincidence, deception, and problem-solving. What is more, Balliet asserts that the central message is that kids are powerful thinkers whose ideas are valuable and that adults do not have the answer to every single question.
As for its critical reception, Chasing Vermeer has received many positive reviews and, in fact, it has awarded in several occasions, for instance, the Agatha Award for Best Juvenile mystery novel in 2005 or the Chicago Tribune Prize for Young Adult fiction in 2004. In 2004, Warner Brothers bought the rights to make a film based on Balliet’s Chasing Vermmer.
I think that the author took a wise decision when he realized he wantes to write a book about art devoted to children. I think the plot is well-built and, what is more, the way the reader in involved in the story through the hidden messages provided by the illustrations can be very entertaining for children, since it makes them participate in the story.
- Chasing Vermeer. (2011, May 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:42, May 19, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chasing_Vermeer&oldid=427474268
- Chasing Vermeer. A mystery within as mystery. Retrieved, May 19, 2011, from http://www.ashlandschools.org/morgan_cottle/vermeer/
May 21, 2011
|During the whole course, we have all realized that there are many art compositions that are based in Vermeer’s paintings. Here, I have tried to collect some of the most important ones that are based in the painting that I have been working on during these months “Woman in blue reading a letter”. This would be the two poems and the novel and then I will include some photographs based on another painting of Vermeer that has many similarities with “Woman in blue reading a letter”, which is “Woman reading at the window”.
This first poem was created by Bob Chapel and it is clearly based on Vermeer’s masterpiece:
The following poem is called “Woman in blue” and it was composed by Joan Siegel about “Woman in blue reading a letter”.
Woman in Blue
She travels toward him
only so far as her hands
have traveled the map
so far as her hands
have traveled the contours
of his body.
His voice fills the room
as though he were seated
in one of the empty carved chairs.
Brightness rises like moonlight
over her blue smock, the belly
that houses the child in its own
world, like the mother’s, distant
from the world of the father
as the evening star.
The Mother of Joan of Arc
She walks one hundred miles
to kneel at the statue of Mary.
In Le Puy’s cold cathedral,
she prays for her daughter,
one mother to another.
is the mother’s longing–
as it was at the birth
that first ripped her open–
what her body made
not see the flesh
of her flesh
The following work is a book called “Girl in Hyacinth blue” written by Susan Vreeland.
“For readers interested in art and history, Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a must read. Author Susan Vreeland traces ownership of a Vermeer painting from the present through each owner in reverse chronology to its seventeenth century Dutch artist. The painting has a complex history, told chapter by chapter in stories of each owner and describes the profound effect the painting had on each one. These stories depict ordinary details with clarity of a Vermeer work of art. Each chapter could stand on its own, like a little gift to the reader. Vreeland is an extremely skilled historical fiction writer, but this book challenges us to think about the function and purpose of art.”
And finally, these are two pictures taken by the famous photographer Tom Hunter and Jonathan Janson. Though them, they try to imitate in a photography Vermeer’s “Woman in blue reading a letter”, each of one in a different way.
“Woman Reading a Repossession Order”
- Vermeer’s Woman in blue reading a letter. The poem hunter. Retrieved: April 10, 2011 at 16:30 from http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/vermeer-s-woman-in-blue-reading-a-letter/
- Woman in blue. In quiet light: poems on Vermeer’s women. Retrieved: April 12, 2011 at 19:30 from http://books.google.es/books?id=w7uXAbqfNkQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=marilyn+chandler+mcentyre+-+in+quiet+light%3A+poems+on+Vermeer%27s+women&hl=es&ei=-7BZTbv2Lca1hAevl9TeDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false and http://vermeer0708.wordpress.com/woman-in-blue-reading-a-letter/
- Vreeland, Susan. Girl in Hyacinth blue. Retrieved: April 20, 2011 at 20:45 from http://www.cmlibrary.org/readers_club/reviews/tresults.asp?id=1496
- Hunter, Tom. “Woman Reading a Repossession Order”. Retrieved: April 22, 2011 at 15:30 from http://www.readingwoman.org/en/cols/2005/8.html
I was doing some research on the Internet last month when I came across a very curious painting: Fernando Botero’s Vermeer’s Studio, which is clearly influenced by the Master of Light. Botero is a very well-known Colombian figurative artist who mainly focuses on situational portraiture.
In his painting “Vermeer’s Studio”, Botero depicts a chubby woman who looks very similar to the Girl with a Pearl Earring, and who seems to be leaning on a table with some fruits in it. In the background, we can see a painter’s easel with Johannes Vermeer’s famous work Study of a Young Woman. The meaning of the work is not entirely clear, but it seems to me that Botero wants to make the viewer reflect on the different cannons of beauty, as well as to put into question the importance that we give to our appearance. A very funny and original work!
May 18, 2011
In Christian theology, the Last Judgment or the Final Judgment is the last and eternal judgment of every nation by God. The scene is found in all the gospels, and is supposed to take place after the resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming of Christ. This belief has inspired numerous artistic depictions of several genres, as is the case of the picture-within-the-picture which appears in the background of Vermeer’s work Woman Holding a Balance, as I mentioned in my first post.
Roman Catholics believe that immediately after death, each soul undergoes a particular judgment, and depending on the actions and good or bad deeds that the person has carried out throughout his life, his soul will go to heaven, purgatory or hell. The Catholic Church teaches that at the time of the last judgment Christ will come in his glory, and all the angels with him, and in his presence the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare, and each person who has ever lived on earth will be judged with perfect justice.
As the Last Judgment is also called the Weighing of Souls, very often the scene is represented by showing a balance, as the painting below. This scene was often depicted in Romanesque sculpture as a decoration of church tympanums. Once we know this, the connection between the balance and the judgment in Vermeer’s work becomes evident. As Robert Huerta defends in his book Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal, the image has been variously “interpreted as a vanitas painting, as a representation of divine truth or justice, as a religious meditative aid, and as an incitement to lead a balanced, thoughtful life.”
In brief, it is important that we take into account the symbolism that is obviously present in Vermeer’s work, and especially in his painting Woman Holding a Balance, where the scene of the Last Judgment seems to have a clear connotation and connection with the protagonist of the painting who is holding the balance.
- Essential Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance. Retrieved 11:20, April 15, 2011 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/
- Wikipedia, Last Judgment. Retrieved 12:00, April 17, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment
- Google Books. Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal, by Robert D. Huerta. Retrieved 13:28, May 18, 2011
As an additional article to my review on the picture “Woman Holding a Balance”, I thought it would be helpful to write something about the value of money in the 17th century Dutch society. In fact, money must have had a great importance in the Netherlands at that time, since so many painters used to depict people weighing material with scales and balances as, among others, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, and Quentin Massys.
The balance traditionally symbolizes justice; after all, to judge is to weigh. However, it seems that the pans of the balance in Vermeer’s work are empty, and they are almost in equilibrium. For a long time, every district in the United Provinces had its system of measures and weights. Weighing coins was actually a way to prevent falsifiers from clipping the coins in order to save money. Money scales had to follow a standard form in the Netherlands at that time. One of the pans of the balance had to be rounded so as to weigh the appropriate denomination of the coin, whereas the other pan had to be triangular to hold the coin itself.
The box where scales were kept included the name of the maker and the weights of the balance. Vermeer depicted every single object to detail in his paintings. It was the government’s duty to regulate manufacturers of money scales to make sure they were prudently used, and many of these boxes were marked by passages from the Bible which emphasized fair and just weighing as, for instance, passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
Coins in the 17th century were much softer than they are today, and it was very common and easy for thieves to clip and falsify them. Rather than for its face value, a coin was worth the weight of its material, usually precious metal. Therefore, it was the duty of household ladies to count their money periodically, weighing all the coins in order to establish their real worth. Although there were various types of coins in circulation during that time, the ducat was the most common one. In Europe, two silver ducats were worth one golden ducat.
Silver had indeed become available in huge quantities all around the world, and that is why the period of time was also known as the Silver Century. Silver had become the universal measure of wealth, although it was mainly used for decorative and ornamental purposes. The main suppliers of silver were Japan and South America, and business transactions were normally done in silver.
The Chinese were not interested in making transactions with Europeans, so they accumulated huge amounts of silver, because they accepted the material as a mode of pay for their porcelain, silk and other exotic goods they produced. Curiously enough, the silver that came to the ports of Amsterdam and London came from the Spanish mines in Peru, rather than from the mines in Germany and Austria.
- Essential Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance. Retrieved 11:20, April 15, 2011 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/
- Wikipedia, Dutch Guilder. Retrieved 13:00, April 15, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_guilder
- Life in the 17th century. Retrieved 1o:45, April 16, 2011 from http://www.localhistories.org/stuart.html
I decided to choose Woman Holding a Balance because it is probably one of Vermeer’s most harmonious and peaceful paintings, and because it conceals many curiosities, secrets and symbols. The work of art has received many other names, as Woman Weighing Gold, Woman Testing a Balance and Woman Weighing Pearls. The reason why it has got so many different names is that, although at first experts thought the portrayed woman was weighing some kind of precious material, later X-rays and microscopic examination proved that the balance she is holding is actually empty, and this aroused a great controversy. There are different opinions about the theme and symbolism of the work of art, as the woman is viewed as a symbol of holiness and earthiness.
This composition is thought to have been made between the years 1662 and 1665. The material Vermeer used is oil on canvas and its size is pretty small (42.5 x 38 cm) if compared with the idea I had of the painting. Currently, the piece is located at The National Gallery in Washington DC.
In the painting, we can see a young woman, seemingly pregnant, who is holding a balance before a table where there are three containers like an open box of jewelry, and some pearls and gold coming out of it. There is a blue cloth in the left foreground, as well as a curtain and a window through which light enters the scene. We can see a little mirror in the wall that is just in front of the woman and a picture of the Last Judgment scene in the wall right behind her.
The origins of this work have been traditionally linked to the also Dutch artist Pieter de Hooch, whose painting Gold Weigher matches Vermeer’s picture very closely. Since neither of the paintings are dated accurately and since both artists were contemporary, “who influenced who” has been a subject of debate for critics. It seems that de Hooch was living and working in Amsterdam but lived in Delft for some years, so it is very likely that the two artists met and exchanged ideas. However, it seems that de Hooch’s Gold Weigher originally had a male figure in the scene, which later was erased by the artist himself. If this were true, the paintings would not look so alike.
Regarding the woman’s appearance, the same white cap that she is wearing was represented by the artist in other paintings too, both tied and opened. According to Dutch costume experts, the cap was partly ornamental and it served to protect the hairdo; it was typically made of white linen, sometimes of nettlecloth and cotton.
One of the greatest mysteries is who posed for the young lady in the painting. Maybe because of the intimate nature that Vermeer’s paintings usually have, there has been a tendency to link the painter’s family members to the sitters of his paintings, some of whom seem to have posed for him more than once. This makes a lot of sense, for employing professional models at the time was very expensive. Most people believe the woman holding the balance is his wife Catharina, who apparently also posed for The Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.
To modern viewers, it looks quite obvious that the woman is pregnant but, according to experts, pregnancy was not a common subject in art and there were actually very few depictions of women in maternity clothes. Even in religious paintings such as the Visitation, where depictions of pregnant women were required, the bodies were usually completely hidden by draperies. In addition, apparently, Dutch fashion in the 17th century encouraged bulky silhouettes.
The two most important elements of Woman Holding a Balance are, no doubt, the picture-within-the-picture and the balance. The picture-within-the-picture shows the Biblical scene of the Last Judgment –the final eternal judgment of every nation by God, where he decides which souls will go to Heaven and which souls will go to Hell. The artist of the painting remains an enigma, but he is thought to be Jacob de Backer, as Vermeer was an art dealer and he was thought to have a similar painting in his possession. A detail that gives evidence to the fact that Backer’s work was a model to Vermeer is that Christ is depicted with both hands raised and outstretched, which is not very common in the depictions of the Last Judgment.
Another interesting element of the work of art is the mirror, which appears four times in Vermeer’s whole oeuvre. Iconographic associations to mirrors are numerous; for instance, sometimes they represent pride, other times vanity, prudence, self-knowledge, and truth. It seems that the mirror in this painting is the same as the one in Woman with a Pearl Necklace, as both are said to be of the same size and presumably made out of ebony. Painters depicting someone gazing into a mirror often also show the person’s reflection, although this is not the case, as we see the mirror from the profile. This is a kind of abstraction, as in most cases the angle of view is such that the person’s reflection should not be visible.
On the other hand, the balance the woman is holding is probably very closely connected to the idea of judgment and the Weighing of the Souls, so Vermeer clearly wants the viewer to see the link between the picture-within-the-picture and the balance. Besides, scales were really important at that time in order to prevent fraud; it was necessary to keep a constant check not only on the amount of goods one had, but also on coins.
The curtain seems to be very similar to the one in Woman with a Pearl Necklace, but warmer in tone. The same yellowish color is used in the two golden stripes in the frame of the Last Judgment picture, as well as in the woman’s dress. One should also pay attention to the stained glass window that was so typical of the period and that the painter used in many other paintings.
In addition, the wooden extendable table seen in the painting appears to be the same as the one Vermeer used in other interiors. This kind of table was considered a luxury item in Dutch painting of the time. The legs have a beautiful bulbous form, and in the 17th century, this piece of furniture was known as a draw-leaf table –because it could be extended by pulling out extra leaves.
The floor tiles are also worth taking into account, as they are the typical black and white chess-like tiles that Vermeer often used. Likewise, Cornelis de Mann, who was also contemporary to Vermeer, depicted the same table and the same floor tiles in his works.
To sum up, it is well worth noting that Woman Holding a Balance is one of Vermeer’s most interesting and mysterious paintings, due to its great symbolism and its several possible interpretations. I will go posting additional information about the painting in order to make the overall study of the work as complete as possible. For more information, I leave my Powerpoint presentation here:
- Wikipedia, Woman Holding a Balance. Retrieved 13:28, April 15, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_Holding_a_Balance
- National Gallery of Art, Woman Holding a Balance, a Moment Captured. Retrieved 17:32, April 20, 2011 from http://www.nga.gov/feature/vermeer/moment1.shtm
- Essential Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance. Retrieved 20:13, May 1, 2011 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/
May 15, 2011
With the purpose of showing you the presentation I did on Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, I have decided to post it by by using Slidshare, the tool we learned to use last year. Hope you find it interesting!
Slide 2: Background
Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter born in Delft on 31 October 1632. He specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer was a slightly successful 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.
Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
Slide 3: Painting Technique
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 painter. It is housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which esteems it as “unquestionably one of the museum’s finest attractions”.
This painting has “perhaps, the most brilliant color scheme of his oeuvre”, says the Essential Vermeer website.
One of the distinctions of Vermeer’s palette, compared with his contemporaries, was his preference for the expensive natural ultramarine where other painters typically used the much cheaper azurite.
Along with the ultramarine, the lead-tin yellow is also a dominant color in an exceptionally luminous work. The white walls reflect the daylight with different intensities, displaying the effects of uneven textures on the plastered surfaces. The artist here used white lead, umber and charcoal black. Although the formula was widely known among Vermeer’s contemporary genre painters, “perhaps no artist more than Vermeer was able to use it so effectively”, according to the Essential Vermeer website.
The woman’s coarse features are painted with thick dabs of impasto. This technique consists on leaving the paint on an area of the surface very thickly.
The seeds on the crust of the bread, as well as the crust itself, along with the plaited handles of the bread basket, are rendered with dots. Soft parts of the bread are rendered with thin swirls of paint, with dabs of ochre used to show the rough edges of broken crust.
One piece of bread to the viewer’s right and close to the Dutch oven, has a broad band of yellow, different from the crust, which Cant believes is a suggestion that the piece is going stale.
The bread and basket, despite being closer to the viewer, are painted in a more diffuse way than the illusionistic realism of the wall, with its stains, shadowing, nail and nail hole, or the seams and fastenings of the woman’s dress, the gleaming, polished brass container hanging from the wall. The panes of glass in the window are varied in a very realistic way.
The woman’s bulky green oversleeves were painted with the same yellow and blue paint used in the rest of the woman’s clothing.
The brilliant blue of the skirt or apron has been intensified with a glaze (a thin, transparent top layer) of the same color.
Slide 5: What does the painting suggest?
Despite its traditional title, the picture clearly shows a maid (a low-ranking servant) in a plain room carefully pouring milk into a container on a table.
Also on the table are various types of bread.
She is a young, sturdily built woman wearing a linen cap, a blue apron and work sleeves pushed up from thick forearms.
The painting is strikingly illusionistic, conveying not just details but a sense of the weight of the woman and the table. With half of the woman’s face in shadow, it is “impossible to tell whether her downcast eyes and pursed lips express wistfulness or concentration,” wrote Karen Rosenberg, an art critic for The New York Times.
“It’s a little bit of a Mona Lisa effect” in modern viewers’ reactions to the painting, according to Walter Liedtke, curator of the department of European paintings at The Museum of Modern Art, and organizer of two Vermeer exhibits. “There’s a bit of mystery about her for modern audiences. She is going about her daily task, faintly smiling. And our reaction is ‘What is she thinking?’”
Slide 6: Relationship Picture-Poem
In this last slide, I have analised the relationship between the picture of “The Milkmaid” and the poem that went with it in our books and we have been looking at in class with Claire:
The poet takes us back on time to what has been done. It is not a static moment in time.
The picture shows a rude woman, not a delicate or fine one. Everything she touches is hard, crude. There is no flattery at all.
She is holding the jug as if it were a baby, as if she were bathing him.
The maid is an earthy woman, not a delicate one, but she turns into kind of holly or precious when the light shines on her. Light transforms her actions onto something holly, full of grace and admirable.
- Johannes Vermeer. Britannica. Retrieved: May 2, 2011 at 21:00 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/626156/Johannes-Vermeer
- Johannes Vermeer. The Milkmaid. Retrieved. May 2, 2011 at 21:00 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Milkmaid_(Vermeer)
- Johannes Vermeer. Retrieved. May 2, 2011 at 21.00 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer
- Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/
- English for Specific Purposes. Orange Book.
May 11, 2011
In this painting, Diana can only be recognised by the crescent moon she is wearing in her hair and by the hunting dog that is sitting next to her. Because of her characteristics as a goddess, she has also been identified with Artemis (goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness and virginity; and she brought and relieved disease in women). As it can be seen in the picture below, both of them carry bows and arrows representing their nature as female hunters.
As for the nymphs, two of them are simply resting on the rock and another one is cleaning Diana’s feet using a brass water basin. This water basin has Christian undertones, since it may be suggesting that Diana is cleaning herself both physically and spiritually; even if some critics have also argued that it may be symbolising death. In addition, there is a fourth nymph who keeps herself apart and contemplates the scene from a certain distance, as if she were trying to hide something. She is Callisto, and what she is hiding is her own pregnancy, indeed. The problem is that when Diana chose her nymphs, she made them all take the vow of chastity. Obviously, Callisto broke it when she became pregnant. Diana is not aware of this issue in the scene, but the legend says that when she found out about Callisto’s pregnancy, Diana turned Callisto into a bear and expelled her from the court because she felt betrayed. Therefore, this is the reason why Callisto is dressed in black, and her dressing clearly contrasts the brightness on the foreground – which is emphasised by the women’s bright dresses – with the darkness on the background. As it can be noticed, there is nothing one can see on the background of the painting apart from a tree and absolute darkness.
Apart from that, it can be observed that Diana is placed in the middle of a circle created by the nymphs. The circularity of the painting is then conveying the idea of unity, balance and repose, at the same time that it suggests that the relationship between the goddess and her nymphs is quite close and comfortable. However, Diana has never been described as a relaxed goddess, but as the opposite. She is characterised by her bad temper and this is made evident in the moment when Actaeon breaks in. This is the true Diana, and not the one portrayed in this particular scene. She could have imagined that a masculine figure is about to appear though, since there is a thistle between her and the dog. This plant is the first that blooms in spring, and it also a symbol of masculinity. However, everything points at the fact that the goddess was not aware of this little detail, since her reaction may have been different if she knew that a man was going to interrupt her sacred moment. Unfortunately for him, Diana has also human characteristics, and this put an end to the hunter’s life.
- Diana and her Companions. Essential Vermeer. Retrieved: May 11, 2011 at 15:30 from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/diana_and_her_companions.html
- Johannes Vermeer. Britannica. Retrieved: May 11, 2011 at 15:36 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/626156/Johannes-Vermeer
- The Greek Goddess Artemis. Goddessgift. Retrieved: May 11, 2011 at 16:00 from http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/greek_goddess_artemis.htm
- Actaeon. Encyclopedia Mythica. Retrieved: May 11, 2011 at 16:00 from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/actaeon.html
April 24, 2011
In my last post, I talked about how Vermeer had influenced modern arts and, more concretely, poetry. The 21st century has been no less influenced by his genius, and, after having gathered a few bookmarks on Vermeer, I realized that a few of them had the same in common: Vermeer’s influence on the 21st century. In this post, I will attempt to show you how this artist is present in a vast number of different fields such as cinematography, Apple Inc., advertising or skateboarding.
I could include many more examples and cases of Vermeer’s influence on fields that belong to our everyday life such as TV shows or more films (i.e. The Girl with the Pear Earring). Nonetheless, I will conclude by saying that, as far as I am concerned, his art will never grow old since its imagery and technique are so powerful that it will still influence many generations to come.
- Girl, Interrupted (1999). In Imdb, the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16:44, February 2011, from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0172493/
- Girl, Interrupted (1999). In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:28, February 2011, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl,_Interrupted_(film)
- Johannes Vermeer Virtual Art Gallery (2009). In Itunes Store. Retrieved 19:46, February 2011,from: http://itunes.apple.com/co/app/johannes-vermeer-virtual-art/id330543535?mt=8
- Patinetas Vermeer. In Zazzle. Retrieved 13:22, March 2011, from: http://www.zazzle.es/johannes+vermeer+patinetas
- Yogures La Lechera (2011). In Youtube, Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved 16:57, February 2011, from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvQSGjJb8Cg
- Girl, Interrupted (2009). In Youtube, Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved 20:52, February 2011, from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4-GD1VqdOA
April 24, 2011
For all of us who have been working on Johannes Vermeer and constantly retrieving information on his life, background and artpieces, it is not new that his influence still pervades on modern arts. While looking around the net in search for precisely that, his influence in modern arts, I stumbled upon this poem written by Ira Sadoff and published in the renowned The Virginia Quarterly Review: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion, and which I already shared with you on Facebook and Delicious, yet I thought it would be adequate to post it on our blog as well since it inspired me when trying to write my story on the painting I chose: A Girl Interrupted at her Music. Here it is, enjoy:
When her mother entered the room, he did not
look up. The young girl’s pale skin turned
white as the shawl she wore. He was pointing
to a figuration of counterpoint, or so
he said. But there was something in the room
of the body giving off light, light was moving
toward the window instead of from its source.
And though his hand still clutched the back
of her chair, the mandolin was covered by sheets
of music, the glass of wine had not been
touched. Though the air in the room seemed
lighter by the old woman’s leaving, nothing
so heavy as speech would be uttered between them,
for there were still lessons to be learned,
what was to be played would soon be played out.
Ira Sadoff (1976). In ‘The Virginia Quarterly Review’ (pages 112-113). Retrieved 17:38, February 2011, from: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/1976/winter/sadoff-vermeer-girl-interrupted/
One of the unique features of Dutch painting is its interest in creating realistic scenes of everyday life which, paradoxically, contain symbolic content indicating that there is more to the picture than what meets the eye. Right now, I would like to analyze what I consider to be the most outstanding elements or details of this painting.
In order to do that, I have signalled in this picture, all the specific details that I will be considering.
First of all, we have a leaned, multi-paned window. I have included a modern drawing of that those windows were supposed to look like. The design was a complex pattern of interlocking squares. Although the window is almost invisible at first sight, it is, along with these black and white marble floorings, one of the most characteristic features of Vermeer’s interiors.
Secondly, we can observe a birdcage on the side wall. Conservators claim that the birdcage is an addition by a later hand since it is more freshly painted than the rest of the elements and, what is more, it was not part of Vermeer’s original design. Birdcages were a popular feature in Dutch painting and had various symbolic meanings such as the inprisonment of love. In my opinion, this later hand might be giving us a clue of what is happening between these two people.
In this painting, Vermeer included three examples of Spanish chairs. They were elements that belonged to the well-furnished houses of the well-to-do Dutch that I mentiones in my last article. In this picture, we can see one of the Spanish chairs in much more detail and we can also observe the carved detailing:
The thin-necked vaseis most likely a wine jug made in Delft, which was one of the principal centers of porcelain production in the Netherlands. They were trying to make imitations of Chinese porcelain with little success; however, they succeeded in making thin, light earthenware decorated in blue in the Chinese style, and they succeeded so much that their products were even exported to China. Also, in its heyday, more than thirty potteries operated in Delft.
The Cupid painting in the back wall might be there in order to reinforce the idea of amorous courtship. Vermeer experts point out that the Cupid might indicate that love is in the air; however, the painting inside out painting is in such a bad state that is it almost impossible to decipher the true story behind the Cupid painting. Nonetheless, there are several theories going around, and one of them assures that the hanging painting corresponds to this one that I am enclosing, although, of course, this is just conjecture:
The wine glass is depicted in such discretion that it could easily go unnoticed. However, it was introduced in order to enhance the theme of seduction. In fact, wine-drinking and music-making, both overlapping sujects in Vermeer’s interior designs were associated in the 17th century with love. Manners books established that wine should be drunk in two or three times. Here, the glass of wine stands untouched as if to underline the efforts on both parts (the cavalier and the lady) to maintain composure.
Another feature to take into consideration is the girl’s red garment. This element is perhaps the one that has suffered the most through agressive restorations, and nowadays looks flattened and without much substance. Most likely, Vermeer employed the technique called ‘glazing’ to achieve its cherry-red colour. Also, the type of headgear worn by the young woman (the linen cap) was partly ornamental and served to protect the hairdo before and after dressing. The Low Countries had been famous for cloth manufracture since the Middle Ages. It remained the most important part of the Dutch industrial economy.
The cavalier bends over the young lady and puts the music sheet in her hands. Although his eyes are lowered, experts say that his amorous purposes are apparent. Vermeer might have drawn inspiration from paintings such as Teasing the Pet by Frans Van Mieris even though Vermeer reworked the whole body language and facial expressions so as to show a much more restraint atmosphere. The similarities and diferences between the two paintings can be observed in the following pictures:
The last ‘detail’ I want to point out is looking out of the picture. In order to explain my point, I would like to quote Arthur Wheelock, a Vermeer expert:
Most Dutch genre painters included scenes with specific actions. However, Vermeer’s attempts at depicting movement or activities such as laughing and drinking resulted in artificial poses. In this painting, Vermeer arrived at the solution for this problem: the momentary interruption. This device allowed him to suggest movement without the need for specific gestures or facial expressions. She, rather than concentrating on the music they hold, looks out at the viewer.
Alberti, who invented linear perspective, suggested that artists might include a ‘commentator’ to guide the viewer of the painting through the painting and to tell him exactly where to look. This sort of ‘insider’, who straddles two worlds (inside and outside the painting) is simultaneously in the work but not in the work. These pictorial commentators were a common motif in Dutch paintings. This can be appreciated in Van Baburen’s Loose Company, a contemporary of Vermeer (on the left). The young lady who looks out of the picture in A Girl Interrupted at her Music seems to have more on her mind than the protagonists of Loose Company. Her gaze is far more enigmatic than that of her smiling counterpart in The Girl with a Wine Glass (on the right), also by Vermeer.
Our lady seems unwilling or unable to tell us something and, in my opinion, her story cannot be fully understood. Nevertheless, the elements that I attempted to explain and analyze in this article might give us a clue of what is going on in this painting.
- Topics and facts about the painting. (2010,2011). In Essential Vermeer. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/girl_interrupted_in_her_music.html.
- Understanding A Girl Interrupted at her Music. (2010, 2011). In Essential Vermeer. Retrieved February 19, 2011 from: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/interrupted.html.
- “La lección de música interrumpida”. (October, 2009). In Museo del Arte. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from: http://museodelarte.blogspot.com/2009/10/la-leccion-de-musica-interrumpida-girl.html.
- WHEELOCK, Arthur J. Johannes Vermeer, 1995. Yale University Press. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/interrupted.html
April 22, 2011
As I mentioned in my last post, my new article will deal with the background against which A Girl Interrupted at her Music was created. First of all, I would like to consider the issue of courtship. Courtship was a very popular motif and Vermeer made use of it in several occasions. However, the facial expressions of the protagonists do not give us a clue of what they are thinking or feeling. Therefore, we have to draw our own conclusions. Is this a scene depicting a scene of amorous courtship? Is this merely a music lesson?
The well-to-do Dutch had very well-furnished houses. Many included elements such as carved furniture, glassware, exotic carpets or porcelain. All of these elements can be observed in our painting, and that conveys the idea that the lady and the cavalier belong to the haute bourgeoisie of the times. Englishmen used to say that the furniture was so clean and in good order that Dutch houses appeared to be designed for an exhibition rather than for a living space. The concept of the Dutch room will be referenced back when analyzing the painting in upcoming articles.
In the 17th century, the association between music and love was a metaphor for an amorous relationship. In fact, music-making was one of the activities which permitted young people to freely associate with each other without the presence of parents or older guardians. On the table, there lies a cittern, one of the most popular instruments of the 17th century and also one of the most frequenly depicted by Vermeer. A cittern sounds a bit like the virginal and it was used for accompanying the singing voice or for dancing music. The people Vermeer chose to represent would have ideally belonged to the haute bourgeoisie, who normally collected songbooks, one of which can be observed on the table. Songbooks played an important role in modern courtship. For instance, young musicians had a vast choice of foreign and local songbooks, which were called liedboeken or collections of love songs. These books frequently reflected the local culture containing references to favourite meeting places for lovers, taverns and so on and so forth.
Until the 1630s, outdoor garden parties where young men and women caroused playfully had been a very popular motif. This can be observed in The Garden Party by Jan Steen, a contemporary of Vermeer. However, the key innovator, Willem Buytewech lost interest in this successful garden motif and decided to bring people indoors. He depicted the haute bourgeoisie as surrounded by luxury furnishings and decorative items such as wall maps. This is the trend that Vermeer will follow in order to create his famous interiors.
The last topic I would like to point out, is the fact that Vermeer inspires himself. A Girl Interrupted at her Music shares much with The Glass of Wine: both portray a gentleman attending a young lady in a moment of courtship, and the position of the couple is more or less the same.
Apart from getting inspiration from his own work, Vermeer also inspired his famous artpieces on painters such as Van Mieris or Metsu, also his contemporaries, and who also depicted scenes of courtship.
Now that we know a little more about the background that surrounded Vermeer and his creations, I will move on to consider, in my next article, the most outstanding elements or details found in A Girl Interrupted at her Music.
- Understanding A Girl Interrupted at her Music. (2010,2011). In Essential Vermeer. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/girl_interrupted_in_her_music.html.
April 21, 2011
The artist of the painting “The Glass of Wine” is Johaness Vermeer (1632-1675). He painted “The Glass of Wine” between 1658-1660. The painting is also known as “Lady and Gentleman drinking Wine” or in Dutch “Het Glas Wijn” and it portrays a seated woman and standing man in an interior setting. Nowadays, the painting can be found in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. The work is typical of the genre painting (images of domestic life, views of households, courtyards…) of the Delft School developed by Pietr de Hooch around 1650. It is a painting of the Baroque style, which it is characterized by its great drama, deep color, intense light and dark shadows.
But what does the painting suggest? It is important to take into consideration that the predominant figure in Vermeer’s works is usually the female character. However, sometimes the male figure intrudes into a domestice scene. This painting as can bee seen, is set in a daylight burgeois room and there is a man encouraging a young woman to dring wine. Wine is in my opinion the central motif in Vermeer’s work due to the fact that it was a forbidden pleasure for women. If a woman was intoxicated on wine, it was considered as a kind of sin. Furthermore, alchool was the first steo towards whoring.
If we now have a thorough look at the painting, we can see that the lute laid aside and the scattered sheet of music add a sexual undertone offset by the couple’s heavy clothing. The emblem of the 27th century was “If music be the food of love” (taken from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”). However, as we can see, their bodies are hidden behind fabrics and folds. His body is covered with a cloak and as we can see, he has not taken his hat yet. Her body is covered under a heavy dress and she is also wearing a headdress. Moreover, as it can be noticed, there is no physical contact, the man is the only one looking at the lady but she cannot see him because of the headdress and the glass that she is holding as can be seen in the image below:
As we have seen, there are characteristics that imply that the couple like each other, they feel a kind of desire, but at the same time, we can see that the heavy clothes mean that there is nothing between them. The open window is emblazoned with an emblem of temperance and it is important that we center in the window, because although it is open, there is not even a glimpse to the outside world. Scholars have suggested that the painting should be analized as a straightforward seduction.
To sum up, we have seen how one has to look carefully at the painting in order to be able to have a critical analysis of the painting, as there are many things related to sin, sex and temperance. In my opinion it is difficult to know whether the couple are attracted to each other or not because I think that their state of mind remais hidden and it is us, the ones who have to decide what kind of relation they have. Perhaps Vermeer wanted the viewer made their own conclusions as well as letting us being creative about it. If you want to learn more about the painting, I will write a second part about the painting technique, and finally, I will made a thir part with some curiosities that I have found.
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wine_Glass
- The complete interactive Vermeer catalogue, http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/glass_of_wine.html
May 23, 2009
Afternoon light falls
on ochres and reds and pale golds.
Velvets and linens and wools
sway heavily in the light
breeze that passes through
this bower of abundance.
The letter she holds has been read before.
Pulling taut the wrinkled sheet she reads
again what she could now recite.
The word on which her gaze falls so intently
reach from the page like a familiar touch,
tender and faint as the delicate script
bleached by the light of this autumn afternoon.
Perhaps it is from an absent husband, running
the trade that brought these rugs a thousand miles,
and bought this fruit, best of harvest, for her table.
Perhaps not. It may be she who has gone away.
Given in marriage beyond what she knew to hope for,
taken from the sound of known feet on the village path,
from a circle of friends gathered to gossip
at the brookside after the day’s tasks,
from the mother who writes her now, wondering
whether, in her grand house, among her servants
and soft garments, she still cares for news from home.
Not even her mother knows how much
she cares: how she is glad that the old, blind cobbler’s
young apprentice is kind to him, and repairs
without a word the vagrant stitches on sole and tongue,
and calls him father; that her sister is learning
to weave and has taken her place reading verses
after the evening meal; that the little hunchback still rides
on the peddler’s cart and laughs back
at the children who laugh at him.
The streets of this city are silent as her ear strains
for familiar sounds. No woman’s voice summons her
in this household where, as yet, there is no babe
to cry or nurse to scold. The man who adores her
knows her only as his lady.
None of them knows how she would like, some evenings,
to lay her coiffed head on a breast broader and softer than her own;
to bake, morning, in a kitchen crowded with bowls and chatter;
to strip off her fine-stitched shoes and wade in a muddy brook
in secret, skirts gathered, with a giggling friend
in the heat and falling light of the afternoon.
In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer’s Women by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
May 15, 2009
“Sus formas visuales hacen referencia al mundo mental, al interior de las personas, a la autoconciencia. Trasciende lo cotidiano, presenta una belleza absoluta. Se dice que es un pintor que detiene el tiempo, el momento, el instante congelado”.
Alejandro Vergara, jefe de Conservación de pintura flamenca y escuelas del Norte
Vermeer is thought to have been inspired in The Goldweigher painted by Pieter de Hooch in 1664. Nevertheless, this influence is far from being coincidental as it indicates the close relation that existed between the two painters. While De Hooch appears to be more concentrated on the geometrical and the anecdotal details, Vermeer adds spiritual and allegorical values to the scene, becoming more complex in meaning.
Woman Holding a Balance (1664) The Goldweigher (1664)
As it can be clearly seen, the central point of the painting is occupied by the balance, as the orthogonal lines seem to meet in the balance.
The Woman appears to be wearing delicate and elegant clothes that seem to correspond to the Dutch Haute bourgeoisie. She is wearing an open white cup which was not only ornamental but it served to protect the coiffeur when dressing. This white cup can also be seen in other paintings by Vermeer and in other paintings of the time.
The Last Judgment
The woman appears to be framed in the painting that darkly hangs behind her: The Last Judgment. It has been claimed that it corresponds to Jacob de Backer as he also painted The Last Judgment with the particularity of depicting Christ with his arms raised.
Pieter de Backer, The Last Judgment (1580)
The woman is attentively waiting until the two scales of the balance come into balance. Nevertheless, there is nothing on the pans that is being weight. Therefore, this suggests that something more important than mere pearls is being weight.
The woman is looking at a mirror that hangs from the wall. Mirrors were quite recurrent in the 17th century arts. For example: Annibale Carrici’s Venus Adorned by the Graces (1590-5) and Diego Velázque’s La Venus del Espejo (1648-51). They meant self-knowledge and truth
Since the central focus is on the balance, this painting suggests the importance of sel-temperance and balance to conduct our life. As the woman seems to be framed in the Last Judgment it can also be claimed that this painting is warning us about the ephemeral of human life and that the earthly pleasures are not important. Nevertheless, the woman’s expression of the face inspires calm and tranquility which provides us with comfort and reassurance.
- Essential Vermeer [online]. [Accesed 14th May 2009]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/
- The National Gallery of Art, Washington. Johannes Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance. [online][Accesed 14th May 2009]. Available from World Wide Web:http://www.nga.gov/feature/vermeer/index.shtm
- Samaniego, F. (2003) El mito de Vermeer conmociona el Prado. El País.com.cultura, 18 February 2003. [online] Accessed 28th May 2009]. Available from World Wide Web:http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/mito/Vermeer/conmociona/Prado/elpepucul/20030218elpepicul_1/Tes
April 26, 2009
Vermeer’s View of Delft and his Vision of Reality, an article by dr. Arthur K. Wheelock, jr. and Kees Kaldenbach
Another complete article about Johannes Vermeer’s painting View of Delft. This time, the text offers us also some planes of the city and of the perspective in which the painting was done.
In the words of teh authors, the aim of teh article is to examine the nature of Vermeer’s image, both to understand the manner in which he created such a naturalistic impression and how he has transformed a topographical view into one that is powerful and audacious in the way Thoré-Bürger and others have described.
- Vermeer’s View of Delft and his vision of reality [online]. [17-05-09]. WWW Page: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kalden/verm/artibus-hist1982.htm
April 19, 2009
In this famour picture by Vermeer we can clearly distinguish four different characters. A whore, a procuress, a young man and anotherman drinking some spirits are the protagonists of the picture.
The whore is a young girl with fair features and clean clothes. She is ready to do her job with the young man in red who is touching her. She holds a glass of some spirits with which she intends to make her suitor go drunk. Whores were supposed to make their lovers go as drunk as possible at that time, and providing they got very drunk, sex was no longer an option for them. She seems to be posing very tranquil and she offers both the viewer and the young man a fair smile. She is presented as a sensitive young girl who is ready to make her job.
The young man in red is the suitor to the young whore in yellow. He is a young man -probably he is a soldier- that wants to have some sexual relationships with that girl. He is waring a red coat -maybe symbol of passion and sexual desire- and a large, black hat with which he is trying to cover the girl, as if he was willing to shelter her -probably meaning he wants to take on her in the bed. He also has his hand on her left breast, as though he was embracing her, and sexually possessing her -showing his clear intentions- at the same time.
The procuress is the woman in black. She is not easily recognised because she is not like most procuresses in other pictures. Her features are fair and she even looks like a man. She is paying heed to the economical transaction that is taking place in the picture. What is more, in early stages of the picture, she was receiving some money -this means she was more active- from the young suitor. Eventually, she is just lookign at him and making sure everything goes perfectly. However, the viewer should notice the malice in ehr eyes, meaning she is no fool and she knows how to deal with economical and sexual issues. In fact, the procuresses were frequently retired whores that had enoght money to lead their own business.
The man in black is much of a jester. He is a comical character that functions rather as the narrator of the story. As a matter of fact, he is looking at the viewer, as if he wanted to tell the story to whoever is examining it. He is aside the action and he wears black clothes so that he does not attract too much attention to himself. Many critics agree nowadays that he is a self-portrait of the very Vermeer. Actually, it was very common to find the painters of those “brothels” in their own pictures. Thus, Vermeer could be but following the current fashion.
Andrei Vázquez Latorre
April 19, 2009
Out of the matter of characters, the objects displayed throughout the place in the picture are also painted with mastery. The sublime and most minute details have been painted with tender and care. Thus, the effect the viewer has at first sight is that of a wonderful piece.
To begin with, the very glass the whore holds betwen her fingers is a finest representation on a “römer” glass, meant for iddle hands, this is, it is wider than normal glasses so that the cup does not slip out of the fingers. Secondly, the glass the man in black holds is very typical in 17th century paintings, and its details have been kept with tender mastery. Even the spirits within the glasses seem to have a social meaning. Usually, brothel wine was corrupted or adulterated candy syrup. On the other hand, beer was also a popular drink. The jester -the man in black- is probably drinking beer, as it is no clear what the young whore is having -or offering to her suitor.
Thirdly, the viewer is given a sight of a cittern, which the jester is holding in his arms. The cittern is not an alien instrument to Vermeer’s time’s pictures, in fact, it is a very common musical instrument which even Vermeer used quite a few times. The cittern represents sexual desire, and so it has been depicted so many times in order to give more strengh to that idea of sex in many similar pictures.
Moreover, the viewer can find a big carpet that covers almost half the picture. This carpet represent a growing fashion in the 16th and 17th centuries of having those objects from Oriental lands that people used as ornamental tools. The carpet in the picture is drawn and painted with much care and has a magnificent look. The black coat from the jester covers part of the carpet to contrast its effect, for the carpet is very large and draws too much attention. The dark coat’s aim is to oppose the aesthetic and attractive strengh of the carpet and make the main attraction focus on the young couple. This coat has been added in a later stage of the painting.
Last but not least, the jug is presented also with a superb look. It is a fine piece of art in a lrger piece of art. The precision of the painting is astonishing and in no other Vermeer paiting could any find another object or piece of decoration as fine and detailed as the one presented in The Procuress.
Andrei Vzquez Latorre