Vermeer ś artistic devotion to women is one of the most striking features of his extraordinary oeuvre; only a third of the surviving works pictures a man. But quantity is the least phenomenon. The very concept, “Women in the art of Vermeer”, takes us into every aspect of his production, from professional aspirations to personal predilections, from broad cultural norms to private meditations, from mundane working conditions to exquisite pictorial adjustments.
The qualities that we attribute to Vermeerś works as a whole apply to the women they picture: paintings and personages share dignity, equilibrium and en exceptional measure of both vivid presence ans abstract purity. The figures range from girlish to maternal, yet are youthful, with high curved foreheads, features that evenly balance the individualized and the classical, and simple, believable postures. Their costuming-its colors, shapes and associations-contributes so much to bodily construction and expression that the absence of nudes from Vermeerś oeuvre hardly seems surprising.
Apart from a few early works with religious or mythological subjects,all of them, depicting women, Vermeer fashioned figures to evoke his own time and place, “The Netherlands”, now. Clothing and settings usually signal the world of prosperous burghers, the urban elite, a world where women enjoyed sufficient space and leisure to cultivate private moments within the home.
In three of the paintings, a maidservant appears in the company of a lady, emphasizing the latterś higher social position and evoking the conventions of the courtship.. But these servants also command interest in their own right.
Vermeerś women often seem familiar to us, too, because his concept of significant human activity embraced habitual, universal ways of engaging the world.
This excerpt written by Elise Goodman is taken from the Cambridge Companion to Vermeer by Franits, Wayne E.