Music and musical instruments were recurrent themes in mid-seventeenth century pictures. I am going to show you some of these instruments illustrating the examples with details from Vermeer’s paintings.
First of all, the virginal, is a box-shaped keyboard instrument that looks like a piano. The keyboard is often surrounded by decorative block printed papers, as in this example where we can see a sentence with a concrete meaning (Music: companion of joy, balm for sorrow).
This instrument also appears in another painting, A Lady Seated at a Virginal:
There are some other string instruments appearing in Vermeer’s paintings: lutes, citterns, or barooque guitars.
Woman with a Lute.
The Guitar Player.
If we look carefully at this painting, we can see the lady holding a trumpet.
The Art of Painting.
WE can conclude that in Vermeer’s times, music was an accepted entertainment for polite society. It was not only a pleasurable means for escaping everyday cares, but also a popular and widely accepted vehicle for facilitating social contact. Music also promoted respectful contact irregardless of nationality or religion, because it was another kind of art in a very high esteem.
There was, in short, a belief in music as the reflection of a Divine Harmony.
INformation taken from Essential Vermeer