This is a copy of Ane Bilbao’s essay on “The Astronomer”.
The Astronomer (1668, Paris, Louvre)
“The Astronomer” (painting). (2008, January 24). From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:34, February 21, 2008.
1. AN OVERVIEW TO “THE ASTRONOMER”
The main reason why I decided to choose this painting was because I liked it (obviously) and because it could be used to talk about many things. First of all, taking into account both Vermeer’s documentary and the film “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, we can get an idea of some characteristics of his work. For example, most of the figures which are painted are women. And we could even say that these women are not portrayed as “Ladies Society”, posing like “The Mona Lisa” as it was usual, but in a very natural scene.
These scenes varied depending on either the customer or Vermeer’s taste. However, they show daily activities of two different groups: the burgeois playing instruments and the working-class a little bit busier, for example. The fact is that both groups could see themselves represented in a picture, that is, by doing things which are common in all of us. This idea is what Vermeer probably wanted to show, a feeling that was present in the Europe of the 17th century.
Secondly, apart from the unusual male presence, this particular painting can be associated with the other one named “The Geographer”. It is like a “tandem” which is related to one of the most important events in Vermeer’s times: The Scientific Revolution. This significative period can be seen, on the one hand, in the objects of other paintings and on the other hand, in these two figures: a geographer and an astronomer searching for new knowledge. A geographer working by looking up the earth and, an astronomer who looks up beyond.