A short Description of Vermeer’s ‘The Geographer’

Jan Vermeer produced just 35 –36 paintings in his lifetime, but remains the most respected artists of the European tradition. Most of Vermeer’s paintings are serene, luminous interiors with just one or two figures.

In The Geographer , Vermeer presents another individual in an interior. In this case, we have a male figure, which has intense energy in comparison to the contemplative women from other compositions. As we can see, the scholar is bending over the maps in his study. His left hand rests on a book; his right hand holds a compass. The painting accurately details the cartographic objects like the sea chart, globe, dividers, square and a cross-staff used to measure the elevation angle of the sun and stars so, all these objects identify him as a geographer. It seems as if he is distracted by something he sees outside but I think that he is not and that according to his facial expression he is in phase of comtemplation. He may be thinking about all the places he has visited.

It is important to mention that Vermeer is one of the the most outstanding colorist and painter of light of his period. This painting, as is often the case with Vermeer, is primarily based on blue, yellow, and red pigments. The room is flooded with a cool, clear light, despite the many dark shadows. They characterize the composition as well as the auxiliary lines that reinforce the perspective.