May 23, 2011
This is a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, it is supposed to be completed between the years 1670–1671, its dimensions are 72.2 cm × 59.5 cm (28.4 in × 23.4 in), its composition is oil on canvas and now it is in the National Gallery of Ireland.
The work shows a middle-class woman attended by a maid who is acting as Messenger for the lady and the lover. The maid is shown standing in the mid ground, behind her lady, with the hands crusted and waiting for the letter to be finished. The positions of her bodies indicate that the two women are disconnected, moreover, the lady is separated from her lady both emotionally and psychologically. The maid’s gaze towards the window indicates an inner restlessness and boredom, as she waits impatiently for the messenger to carry her lady’s letter away. Nevertheless, there are some art historians who say that the fact that the maid is present during such an intimate act as the composition of a love letter indicates at least a degree of intimacy between the two.
More than once Vermeer thought about the possibility of subverting the hierarchy of the figures’ social position within his compositions. In this case, the maid, who belongs to an inferior social class, stands at the center of the painting placed above her mistress. Vermeer’s figure may have been derived from a work of similar letter theme by painter Gabriel Metsu as she wears a surprisingly similar outfit and fulfills essentially the same role.
The pose of the seated mistress seems to draw inspiration from the Lacemaker as their facial expression is similar. The patch of bright white wall behind her is contrasting her right hand silhouette; however, this bright is illogical considering the fall of light in the rest of the room.
In this painting, there are some usual motifs such as the window frame and the back wall painting, and there are also particular motifs. Let’s begin with the floor, the marble flooring in this painting suggests a quality of bourgeois life rather than any reality, it is an ideal as the Dutch generally preferred floor made of wood like in this image in which appears one of the most influential men of culture in the Netherlands.
This detail is a letter, a stick of sealing wax, a bright red seal, and an object that could be a book or a letter, if it is a letter it may be one that the lady has received or a draft that she rejected, or maybe is a letter not her own and its content was disturbing.
Of the many carpets represented in Vermeer’s paintings, this one is the most abstractly painted. The decorative designs are reduced to a sort of calligraphic shorthand and the knotty texture has been completely erased by an exceptionally smooth, simplified application of paint.
Chairs also appear in a great number of Dutch paintings and many critics think that some of the empty chairs in Vermeer’s paintings may allude to an absent person. In this work the presence of the free-standing chair and the objects tossed on the floor might indicate that some action would have just taken place. Otherwise, they would be in order.
This is a tribute to his beloved Delft including a row of locally-made floor tiles. These tiles served to protect the lower walls from mops and brooms, to cover fireplaces and to isolate walls from humidity.
This green curtain functions as a familiar pictorial device called repoussoir meaning to push back. This means a contrast by placing a large figure or object in the foreground of a painting. In a number of Vermeer’s paintings there are repoussoir curtains in the foreground too placed between the first and the second window of the artist studio. They are pushed more on less to the left and gathered up a little at the bottom giving the impression of a stage with the curtain drawn back. The repoussoir curtain has noble origins and an example of this is this mural representing Parrhasius and Zeuxis.
The white curtain establishes one of three strong diagonal lines which gives energy to the composition and softens the composition’s rectilinear design.
The leadings of the window seem to be identical in design with the ones in the earlier Music Lesson but in this picture the central design has been colored. No one has been able to make out a figural meaning of the motif and maybe it was simply colored in order to bond the empty left-hand side of the painting with the right.
This painting is a Finding of Moses. It follows the same technique applied to other examples of the so-called pictures within-a-picture in other works by the artist. Curiously, the same Moses appears in the Astronomer, dramatically reduced scale.
As a curiosity, this painting has been stolen two times in the last twenty-five years. The first one was in 1974. The painting was stolen by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) from his owner, who was a member of Britain’s Parliament. Some members of IRA entered his home and stole a total of nineteen painting by using screwdrivers to cut the paintings from their frames. They were recovered a week later. The work was again taken in 1986 by a gang led by the Dublin organized crime gang leader Martin Cahill. Only after more than seven years of secret negotiations and international detective work was the painting recovered.
- Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid. (2010, December 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:32, May 23, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lady_Writing_a_Letter_with_her_Maid&oldid=401049839
- Essential Vermeer. The complete interactive Vermeer catalogue. Retrieved 19:30, May 23, 2011, from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/lady_writing_a_letter.html
- Vermeer: Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid. Retrieved 19:35, May 23, 2011, from http://www.artchive.com/artchive/V/vermeer/lady_writing.jpg.html
May 23, 2011
Many scholars have been intrigued by Vermeer’s use of maps or globes in many of his paintings. Here you have a list of some of the paintings of Vermeer in which appear a map or a globe:
1. Officer and laughing girl
2. Woman in blue reading a letter
3. Young woman with a water pitcher
4. A lady with a lute
5. The art of painting
6. The love letter
7. The astronomer
8. The geographer
9. The allegory of faith
May 22, 2011
The camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image that is in the surroundings on a screen. It was use to make paintings, and it was one of the techniques that led to photography. It consist in a box or a room with a hole in one of its sides. Light passes through the hole reflecting the object from the exterior in one of its walls.
“It has sometimes been suggested that Vermeer might have used a camera of a rather different kind, which certainly existed in his time, but which was only manufactured in large numbers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and which took the form of a closed box, with an external translucent screen. The observer is now outside the box, not inside it. Both Canaletto’s and Reynolds’s cameras were of this type. One problem compared with the room-type camera is that the image is viewed under ambient light and so seems subjectively less bright. Fox Talbot and the French pioneers of photography, Niépce and Daguerre, built the first photographic cameras by modifying commercially produced camera obscuras of this general type.”
But why some people think that he used this technique in his paintings? Well, there is no documentary evidence of it. The only things that we have to support this idea are his paintings. The first person suggested that was Joseph Penell, when he observed the painting of “officer and laughing girl”. The figures seem to be very close, but if we look at the officer’s head, it can be observed that it is bigger than the head of the girl. Nowadays this way of paintings is very common, but in the 17th century, it was an innovation.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/vermeer_camera_01.shtml .Retrieved on May 20, 2011, at 10:30
Camara oscura, from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A1mara_oscura .Retrieved on May 20, 2011, at 10:30
May 22, 2011
Her hands know what to do:
they dance, winding the threads
around their tiny maypoles, trying
each knot with surprising speed under
the deep calm of that broad, honest face,
suspended like a benevolent moon
over this delicate task.
She is not delicate. Body and bosom
are full-fleshed; her heavy ringlets will uncurl
by sundown. Wool and wood, metal hooks
and folds of yellow fabric are rich
with gravity and mass —- things
solidly of this world.
Yet in this light that pours
from some high window,
passing beneficence of a northern sun,
those solid things seem fragile:
the light will shift; she will lift her head
and stretch and sigh, the quiet
around her rippled like a pond´s surface,
and this graced moment gone.
Gathered on what we see,
filtered through lace, gleaming
on hair and polished wood, what we see
is always the light.
May 22, 2011
This picture was painted by Vermeer, a Dutch painter from the baroque era. It is not very clear the year in which this work was painted, but, since the costume of the girl in the painting and the techniques used are similar to those of the Girl Reading a Letter by an open window, this painting is generally dated about 1658, shortly after the other. The technique used is oil on canvas, and the size of the painting is 19 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (50.5 x46 cm.). Nowadays, this painting is part of the Frick Collection, inNew York.
Vermeer seem to have adopted his subject matter from Pieter De hooch. This painter painted a number of interior genre scenes of soldiers and women at tables. Furthermore, in some of these paintings, he tended to situate the soldier so that the viewer looked over his shoulder; this viewpoint gives an informal appearance to the scene.
However, the conception of the scene is different from that of the Hooch since Vermeer brought his figures extremely close to the picture plane. He heightened the contrast of scale between the two characters (as we can see the officer looms large and the girl diminutive, almost remote) and intensified contrasts of light and colour. The effect is comparable to that seen in a wide angle lens or convex mirror. And it is one of the characteristics of Vermeer’s compositions that had led art historians to argue that he used a camera obscura.
Regarding the girl of the painting, some experts said that it is possible that the girl was Vermeer’s wife, Catherine Bolnes, although there is no proof. Her luminous face, her unabashed smile and glittering yellow satin bodice neutralize the austere presence of the cavalier. The gesture of her open hand, palm up, seems to extend her openness and desire for communication. The yellow bodice with black braiding that she wears appears in other Vermeer’s including The Music Lesson and the Girl at Reading a Letter at an Open Window. As we can see in this x-ray photograph, Vermeer originally painted her with a large white collar over her shoulders obscuring much of the brilliant yellow dress.
The red colour of military uniforms, such as the one worn by Vermeer’s soldier, had a practical function. In times of war the regulation of the colours and signs was essential to survival as each soldier could be more easily identified and avoid an attack his own troops in the tangle of a battle.
The black sash which hangs around the young man’s shoulder tells us that he is probably an officer. But more than his social identity, the viewer’s imagination is caught by his arresting visual and psychological presence. Vermeer, as many Dutch painters of the time, employed his officer as a device called repoussoir: the placement of a large figure (objects, such as curtains, were also commonly used) in the immediate foreground to dramatically increases the illusion of depth in the rest of the picture.
Vermeer frequently places contrasting forms, colours and textures of the motifs in his pictures to strengthen the picture’s narrative. In this work, we can almost feel a spark of uncertainty between the soldier and the seated young girl.
It is difficult to gauge his thoughts because he turns his back towards us. His whole figure is immersed in deep shadow and we can only see part of his face which does not tell us anything about his character.
On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the young girl’s radiant optimism. Her expression is so positively charged that even the officer’s reticence is effectively dissimulated.
This painting contains one of the first examples of Vermeer’s precise sense of realism: the map on the back wall. Wall maps, which were popular forms of decoration in Vermeer’s day, are frequently found in his paintings, that is the case of, the art of painting (1666). This map of Holland and West Friesland was designed by Balthasar Florizs van Berckenrode in 1620. Fortunately one example of the map still exists, and it confirms the precision of Vermeer’s rendering.
May 20, 2011
Formal Analysis of the painting: The Art of Painting
Vermeer – The Art of Painting
Slide 1 and 2
This work by Johannes Vermeer I have chosen had a special meaning for the painter and througout his life he refused to get rid of it. It was painted between 1662 and 1668 and is not too large 120 * 100 cm. This painting is somehow unusual.
It is known by several names: “The Art of Painting”, “Painter in his Studio”, “Allegory of Painting”.
Why the different titles?
- THE ART OF PAINTING
- PAINTER IN HIS STUDIO
- ALLEGORY OF PAINTING
Vermeer is about light going into dark spaces. This painting is a completed presented image out of darkness (symbolic and metaphysical aspects of it)
This canvas, like the rest of his work, is characterized by the use the artist makes of light and color. He uses a window that is only guessed. The light goes through it and illuminates the scene with special emphasis on the main character’s model.
But other elements are also well defined, the curtains, the chairs or the lamp. This work has a peculiarity: the symbolism that is behind every element include in the whole composition.
- - STUDIO
- PAINTER VERMEER ?
- MODEL CLIO
As stated in some of the names of this painting, the scene is showing the studio of a painter. Here we see two characters: a model and a painter. The model represents the muse of History: Clio.
The painter might be the author himself, Vermeer.
QUESTIONS # 2, 3, 4 and 5
- Why does Vermeer include himself?
- Why does he paint himself from behind?
- Why is the female figure Clio?
- What does this say about painting?
- What does this say about the relationship between narrative, portraits, paintings and history?
Clio is a muse. So she is related to literary devices more than historical facts. At the time history was much more a literary exercise.. As for Vermeer portrayed that way, he maybe displaying the difficulty behind perceptions of reality. How impossible it is to picture reality.
Other answers maybe that he was not that great in portraying faces. Rembrandt was the opposite: superb at portraits and mediocre at elements. Or was he being modest?
What you see is what you get: What do you see?
- CHANDELIER HABSBURGS
Another important element is the lamp placed in the middle of the study. At its top are the symbol of the House of the Habsburgs: the imperial double eagle. The model holds in her hand a trumpet and a book: these objects meaning glory, fame, knowledge.
Clio on her head has a laurel crown: symbol of glory. It seems to be what the painter is painting at the precise moment of the “shot”.
Finally, we must mention the map on the wall, at the back of the model. It represents the position of the Netherlands, with the seventeen pr0vinces and more important cities.
- CHANDELIER HABSBURGS
Slides 7 and 8
- THE KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM
The Art of Painting is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It was acquired by the Austrian Government in 1946.
One last QUESTION
WHAT STATUS IS VERMEER CLAIMING FOR PAINTING?
I came to this painting and the more I look into it, the more questions come into my mind.
Please feel free to answer them for me. Cheers!
Valeriano Bozal (2003). Vermeer: el gran “voyeur”. Descubrir el Arte,
Consultado 20.03.2011 en
Janson (2011). An essential Vermeer bookshop. Consultada
20.03.2011 en http://www.essentialvermeer.com/books/books_vermeer.html
http://www.johannesvermeer.info/verm/house/hz-chandelier-eng.htm Literature on this particular chandelier. Retrieved on May 20th 2011.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h1XYtzorJwLkYPvbfedQkFReGzGQ Vienna museum fears restitution of stolen Vermeer. Retrieved on May 20th 2011.
Department of Modern Languages and Basque Studies
May 17, 2011
The work shows a young woman in a room dressed in a yellow shawl bent as she sews the threads of a dress. As you can see, the pale and empty wall in the background intensifies the qualities of the young lacemaker and drives our attention to a physical activity.
Regarding the lady, critics have often said that the lacemaker could be a member of his family circle. Taking into account the date of the painting and the corresponding ages of his eldest daughters, it’s easy to know that the lacemaker was one of them.
At first sight what attract our attention are her eyes which are looking down. This fact shows the great concentration of the lady at work. What’s more, her hairstyle expresses her essential nature and we can appreciate that her dangling locks are quite similar to those of the Young Woman Seated at the Virginal painted in the same years.
After looking at her, we realize that her eyes encourage the viewer to pass on to a more defined middleground. Here is where the activity takes place. Although we cannot see the kind of lace she is making we can draw some conclusions from her tools which Vermeer has drawn with sufficient precision.
The girl rests her hands on light-blue lacemaking pillow. It was used to make shorter pieces or stripes of lace, which seems to be the case in Vermeer’s work. Pricking card is partly visible, fixed on the blue pillow. Little holes are pricked onto this card to establish the desired pattern. Pins are inserted carefully into every hole around which the threads are entwined. Around these pins the threads, furnished by the bobbins, are interwoven and crossed according to the pattern. Apart form that it’s obvious that there is a light from the outside even if there is no window in the painting because it illuminates her hands as well as her face.
In this painting we can also appreciate a mass of red and white threads that stick out from the cushion’s opening. Such cushions were frequently held on the young lady’s lap as a base for her handiwork. The same sewing cushion appears in the Gabriel Metsu’s The Hubter’s Gift.
Then we find a small book lying on the table which is thought to be a prayer book or small Bible. In this context, the Holy Bible symbolizes domestic virtue which was a fundamental concept in Dutch civil life.
Apart from that, the lacemaker sits at a piece of furniture, a triangular table, for lace making and near the table, there is a tapestry which also appears in Vermeer’s Love Letter and the Astronomer.
The floral pattern suggests that it was not a carpet imported from the Far East, but rather a tapestry produced locally in Belgium or the Netherlands.
- Web Gallery of Art.
- The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer.
- Vermeer: The Lacemaker
May 17, 2011
The Lacemaker , the painting I chose in order to do my presentation as well as to write the tale, is a painting by the famous Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). It was completed between 1669–1670. Nowadays, we can find it in the Louvre Museum, Paris. The work shows a young woman dressed in a yellow shawl bent in concentration as she sews the threads of a dress. At 24.5 cm x 21 cm (9.6 in x 8.3 in), the work is the smallest of Vermeer’s paintings,but in many ways one of his most abstract and unusual.
Regarding technical description, the support is a slightly open, plain-weave canvas. The thin, gray-brown ground contains chalk, lead-white, and umber. The red; pink and light blue areas were painted wet-in-wet. Brushmarks impart texture to the background paint, and impasto touches are found on the highlights. X-radiograph shows a pentimento: the knee was lower so that a triangle of wall was visible under the tabletop. The blue in the tablecloth is discolored. The flattened tacking edges along the left and right sides have been retouched. At the same time, it’s important to mention that things such as tools and threads were painted accurately adding all details.
Concerning the activity that the painting represents, it’s easy to assume that the girl it’s working on lacemaking. This was one of the greatest extravagances in the history of clothing. True lace was not made until the late 15th and early 16th century. In Vermeer’s painting, we can clearly see that the girl is making bobbin lace, which is one kind of lace.
Finally, we realized that unlike other artists, Johannes Vermeer used to sign all his paintings in different ways. The most common are the ones which appear in A Lady Standing at the Virginal,The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, The Glass of Wine, The Girl with a Glass of Wine and so on. On the contrary, the less common ones appear in The Procuress, The Art of Painting, The Astronomer and Diana and her Companions. So, as you can see the signature of this painting is clearly among the most common ones.
- The Lacemaker (Vermeer). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer.