Woman Holding a Balance – Johannes Vermeer (c. 1665)
When I first saw Vermeer’s painting entitled A Woman Weighing Pearls (also known as The Woman Holding a Balance), I realized that there could be a challenging story behind this puzzling and mysterious picture.
Unlike many of his other paintings, A Woman Weighing Pearls appears to be quite dark and allegorical at the same time, which denotes multiple interpretations. In fact, when I first looked at it different questions came into mind: why is the woman holding a balance? Why is the balance in the centre of the painting? Is she confronting a kind of Final Judgement? Is she weighing something more personal than pearls?
Moreover, I do not really know why, but the delicate expression of the woman’s face reminded me of the figure of Mariana, in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure when she is asked if she is a wife, a maid or a widow and she answers:
My lord, I do confess I ne’er was married;
And confess, besides, I am no maid.
I have known my husband; yet my husband
Knows not that ever he knew me.
(Act V scene 1: lines 185-8)
These are just a few ideas which came into my mind randomly when I first saw the picture, now I need to go deeper into the picture and let’s see what I come up with!