Johannes Vermeer is after Rembrandt the most famous Dutch painter. He was born in Delft in 1632 so he worked during the 17th century, the Golden Age of Holland. He is know by plenty of names, such as Jan Vermeer, Vermeer of Delft or Johannes van derMeer.
Vermeer was an expert in interior domestic everyday life of bourgeois. He spent all his life in the city of Delft. During his life, he had been an almost famous provincial painter. He had never been especially rich, perhaps due to the short number of paintings he produced and because when he died he left plenty of debts for his wife and children. Practically forgotten during two centuries, in 1866 the art critic Thoré Burger published an essay in which Vermeer was attributed 66 pictures (only 34 are actually attributed to Vermeer). Since then, Vermeer’s reputation increased and actually, he is considered one of the most important painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He is particularly famous due to the majesty treating light.
We know very little about Vermeer’s life, apart from some basic activities written down in registers and legal documents.
Vermeer was born in Delft (Holland) and lived there until he died. He was buried in the old Church (Oude Kerk) in Delft.
Vermeer’s work is quite short; Among them 32 pictures are interior scenes or portraits and 2 urban views, such as “View of Delft”. The number of paintings attributed to Vermeer variety, mainly due to the circumstances in which he died and the years he had been forgotten.
Vermeer emphasized in the restitution of light, texture, perspective (perhaps he used the camera obscura) and the transparent colors. He cared for the harmony of colors. Among his works it can be felt the silence of the characters in some private moments of their lives. He was interested in all the society classes, from the portrait of a simple milk woman working, to the works in which he shows luxury and splendor of the richness of the bourgeois pf that time. So his paintings let us know about many aspects of the life at that time. Vermeer’s works have religious and scientific connotations.
He became famous in his birthplace Delft as an innovative painter and as an expert in paintings. In 1672 he has been called to La Haya to make a technical study on a collection of canvas sold to Federico Guillermo.
He got married in 1653 with Catharina Bolnes, daughter of Maria Thins, who was quite rich. However, the wars, first against France and then England, decreased the painting trade and arts in general, and Vermeer’s earnings went rapidly down as they had eleven children. Some of the paintings had to be given as he couldn’t pay his debts. Vermeer died being very pure and his wife had to sell some of his paintings to survive too. Nowadays, there are 34 painting which are recognized to be painted by Vermeer and only 16 are signed.
1. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary ( 1655 )
2. Diana and Her Companions ( 1656 )
3. The Procuress ( 1656 )
4. Girl reading a letter at an Open Window ( 1657 )
5. A Girl Asleep ( 1657 )
6. The Little Street ( 1657-58 )
7. Officer with a Laughing Girl (c. 1657 )
8. The Milkmaid ( c. 1658 )
9. A Lady Drinking and a Gentleman ( 1658-60 )
10. The Girl with the Wineglass ( c. 1659 )
11. View of Delft ( 1659-60 )
12. Girl Interrupted at her Music ( 1660-61 )
13. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter ( 1663-64 )
14. The Music Lesson ( 1662-65 )
15. Woman with a Lute Near a Window ( c. 1663 )
16. Woman with a Pearl Necklace ( 1662-64 )
17. Woman with a Water Jug ( 1660-62 )
18. A Woman Holding a Balance ( 1662-63 )
19. A Lady Writing a Letter ( 1665-1666 )
20. Girl With a Pearl Earring ( 1665 )
21. The Concert ( 1665-66 )
22. Portrait of a Young Woman ( 1666-67 )
23. The Allegory of Painting ( 1666-67 )
24. Mistress and Maid ( 1667-68 )
25. Girl With a Red Hat ( 1668 )
26. The Astronomer ( 1668 )
27. The Geographer ( 1668-69 )
28. The Lace Maker ( 1669-70 )
29. The Love Letter ( 1669-70 )
30. Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid ( 1670 )
31. The Allegory of Faith ( 1671-74 )
32. The Guitar Player ( 1672 )
33. Lady Standing at a Virginal ( 1673-75 )
34. Lady Seated at a Virginal ( 1673-75 )
The Painting “View of Delft”
The “View of Delft” is a painting made between 1659 and 1660 by the Dutch painter Johanes Vermeer. Nowadays, it can be found in the Mauritdhuis of the Hague.
If one knows the paintings belonging to Vermeer, it is quite amazing to find a painting about a view. However, topographic views of cities had become a tradition by the time Vermeer painted his famous canvas. Hendrik Vroom was the author of two works depiciting Delft, but they are more archaic as they follow the traditional panoramic approach that can be seen in the cityscapes by Hercules Seghers at the Berlin museum. The latter artist was one of the first to make use of the inverted Galilean telescope to transcribe the preliminary prints and their proportions (more than twice as high as wide) into the more conventional format of his paintings.
Vermeer shoot his “View of Delft” on the first floor of a house in the south of the river Schie. He worked on the spot, but the optical instrument pointed towards the city and providing the artist with the aspect translated onto canvas, which we admire for its conciseness and special structure, was not the camera obscura but the reversed telescope. It is only the latter that condenses the panoramic view of a given sector, diminishes the figures of the foreground to a smaller than normal magnification, emphasizes the foreground as we see in the picture, and by the same sign makes the remainder of the composition recede into space. The image obtained provides us with optical effect that, without being unique in Dutch seventeenth-century painting, as often claimed, convey a cityscape that is united in the composition and enveloped atmospherically into glowing light.
We admire the town, but it is not a profile view of a township, but an idealized representation of Delft, with its main characteristics simplified and the cast into the framework of a harbor mirroring selected reflections in the water, and a rich, full sky wick magnificent cloud formations looming over it.
The “View of Delft” is chronologically the last painting by Vermeer that was painted in rich, full pigmentation, with color accents put in with a full loaded brush. The artist outdid himself in a rendition of his hometown, which stands as a truly great interpretation of nature.
This painting of View of Delft is one of the only signed and dated paintings. It is also one of the only paintings in the history of Western art that shows us a privileged moment of vision lasting a fraction of a second. Usually, a landscape is shown bathed in light or drowned in darkness, for eternity.
Vermeer shows Deft in shadows. Suddenly, for the time of a single breath, a ray of sunlight lights, illuminates the city. The sun will disappear. This is the impression of an ephemeral fleeting moment, painted with such serenity and classicism that this second seems to have been etched into eternity.
Proust once said “From the moment I saw the View of Delft at The Hague Museum, I knew that I had seen the world’s most beautiful painting”.
One of the only signed and dated paintings.
1646: Vermeer’s genius bursts forth in the VIEW OF DELFT – it’s amazing. It is one of the only paintings in the history of Western art showing us a privileged moment of vision lasting a fraction of a second.
Normally, a landscape is shown bathed in light or drowned in darkness, for eternity. Vermeer shows Delft in shadows. Suddenly, for the time of a single breath, a ray of sunlight lights, illuminates the city. One holds one’s breath. The sun will disappear. This is the impression of an ephemeral fleeting moment, painted with such serenity and classicism that this second seems to have been etched into eternity
City of Delft
Delft is a city located in Holland, in mid way from Rotterdam to La haya. The city had 94.098 habitants in 2005. Delft is more than 750 year old and its name comes from the word “dig”, “digging the oldest channel”, The Oude Delft. Delft received its license of city in 1246. From then on, the city thrived and new neighborhoods appeared.
In 3rd of may 1536, the big fire burned out. The cause of the fire is unknown yet bit it is believed that the wooden needle of the Nieuwe Kerk had been shacked by a flash of lighting and the spark fly set fire in the houses nearby. Approximately, 2,300 houses were in fire until they become ashes. More than a hundred years later, in 1654, an explosion ruined a big part of the houses of the city. The basement of the Poor Claris convent on the top of Paardenmarkt was used to store gunpowder. This central store for the Dutch region contained more or less 80,000 pounds of gunpowder. The consequences of the explosion had been huge, 200 houses had been devastated, others end up semi-ruined and many others got broken windows. In 1660 a new gunpowder house was built a mile away from the center of the city.
THE DUCTH EAST INDIA COMPANY
The Dutch East India Company was one of the most important merchant societies of the world with a more than a hundred shipped fleet, thousands of employees, offices settled in Asia and six places in Benelux ( Belgique o Belgie, Nederland and Luxemburg) among then one being in Delft. In 1602, Delft was a flourishing city, a center of painting, arts, crafts and science. The establishment of the company and the opening of the branch in the city, added another important motive to the economy of Delft and the trade with distant countries. Since then on, spices, coffee, tee and the Chinese porcelain were connected with the city.
KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURE
In 1842 the Benelux was under the other neighbor countries from an industrial point of view. The country required technically qualified people so the Royal Academy for Civil Engendering was founded. The academy used the building of the old artillery school. Nowadays, the old academy has turned to be the Technical University which is the most important building of Delft.
Delft is not only a cultural city, but also a city of knowledge. The university is not the only building for education. There are also plenty of Institutes based on knowledge and business, for instance, the DSM essential idea, The Dutch Institute of Measurement, Exact Software, Delft Instrument and so on.
PEOPLE CONNECTED TO THE CITY
· The painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was born in Delft. Vermeer made use of the streets and insides of Delft as motives or background of his paintings. His master pieces, famous worldwide, are shown in museums all over the world. Apart from the refined colors and harmonious compositions, the treatment of the deepness and the play with the light is what makes the paintings of Vermeer to be so good. Vermeer worked and lived with his family in different places of the center of the town, which he used as his inspiration. Thanks to his paintings, an idea of the old Delft and also the life in Delft at Golden Age, can be easily made.
· Delft is also the birthplace of the scientist Antoni Van Leeuwehoek (1632-1723) who polish some minuscule lens which increase the image up to 266 times, using them fro an interesting device; the microscope. Vermeer also based on this device in his painting “The Geographer” and “The Astronomer”. Van Leeuwenhoek became the administrator of the inheritance of Vermeer after his death.
Dutch Golden Age Painting
The Dutch Golden Age is a period of painting in Dutch history. It occurred during the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The painters of this era have left a profound legacy.
At the time, there was a hierarchy of themes in paintings; historical painting, portraiture of individuals and groups, portrait painting, genre painting or scenes of everyday life, landscape and cityscape and finally still life. Vermeer focused mainly I genre paintings but he also touch some other themes. Combinations of these categories occurred. Allegories, in which paint objects conveyed symbolic meaning about the subject, were often applied. For instance, a still life might include a skull, an hourglass and a snuffed out candle, symbols which all emphasized mortally. Seasons were often indicated by human activities that were typical for that time of the year (skating, sowing, harvesting, etc.) Paintings often had a moralistic message hidden under the surface.
Focusing on the themes that Vermeer worked in, for example, the most important are portraits. Portrait painting thrived in the Netherlands in the17th century. Many portraits were commissioned by wealthy individuals. Group portraits similarly were often ordered by prominent members of a city’s civilian guard, by boards of trustees and regents, and the like.
Especially in the first half of the century, portraits were very formal and stiff in composition. Groups were often seated around a table, each person looking at the viewer. Much attention was paid to fine details in clothing, and where applicable, to furniture and other signs of a person’s position in society. Later in the century groups became livelier and colours brighter.
Scientists often posed with instruments and objects of their study around them. Physicians sometimes posed together around a cadaver, a so called ‘Anatomical Lesson’, the most famous one being Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632, Mauritshuis, The Hague). Boards of trustees preferred an image of austerity and humility, posing in dark clothing (which by its refinement testified to their prominent standing in society), often seated around a table, with solemn expressions on their faces. Families often had themselves portrayed inside their luxurious homes.
Most group portraits of civilian guards (Dutch: schutterstuk) were commissioned in Haarlem and Amsterdam. Here the portrayed favoured an image of might, status or even a joyous spirit. The arrangement around a table would give way in later years to a more dynamic composition, the most prominent example being Rembrandt’s famous The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq better known as the Night Watch (1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). In Amsterdam most of these paintings would ultimately end up in the possession of the city council. Many of these are now on display in the Amsterdam Historical Museum.
Often group portraits were paid for by each portrayed person individually. The amount paid determined each person’s place in the picture, either head to toe in full regalia in the foreground or face only in the back of the group. Sometimes all group members paid an equal sum, which was likely to lead to quarrels when some members gained a more prominent place in the picture than others.
Other commonly used themes by Vermeer were everyday scenes. Many genre paintings, which seemingly only depicted everyday life, actually illustrated Dutch proverbs and sayings, or conveyed a moralistic message, the meaning of which is not always easy to decipher in modern times. All walks of life were shown. Today these genre paintings provide many insights into the daily life of 17th century citizens of all classes.
Landscapes or cityscapes like View of Delft were typical of the age although there are only two paintings of Vermeer belonging to this theme. Landscape painting was a major genre in the 17th century. Flemish landscapes (particularly from Antwerp) of the 16th century first served as an example. These had been not particularly realistic, having been painted mostly in the studio, partly from imagination. Soon this trend changed, and real Dutch landscapes became prevalent. Drawings were made on site. Horizons were lowered, which made it possible to emphasize the often impressive cloud formations that were (and are) so typical in the climate of the region, and which cast a particular light. Favourite topics were the dunes along the western sea coast, rivers with their broad adjoining meadows where cattle grazed, often with the silhouette of a city in the distance. Winter landscapes with frozen canals and creeks also abounded. The sea was a favourite topic as well since the Low Countries depended on it for trade, battled with it for new land, and battled on it with competing nations. Pictures of sea battles told the stories of a Dutch navy at the peak of its glory.
Architecture also fascinated the Dutch, churches in particular. The exteriors and interiors of buildings were reproduced faithfully. During the century insights into the proper rendering of perspective grew and were enthusiastically applied.