What Makes Vermeer’s Work so Special?

If we should describe Vermeer’s paintings with only one word, that would be simplicity. The subjects are mostly ordinary women enganged in simple tasks, creating moments – small fractions of seconds – that are turned into something special. But why is it that this simplicity is imbued with some greatness that makes it almost magic?

In Essential Vermeer (http://www.essentialvermeer.com/  , accessed on June 8 ) we find two ideas that help us understand the factors that have made the figure of Vermeer stand out among other Dutch painters. To begin with, his paintings can be regarded as windows that let us peep into the reality of 17th-century Holland. The View of Delft and The Little Street show us with with extraordinary realism the daily lives of the citizens of Delft; and women that are portrayed in most of his paintings give us an idea of how their lives were somewhat limited to the domestic sphere, while men travelled around the world (maps became a ver recurrent element in Vermeer’s indoors-paintings).

But more importantly, it is important to take into account the extraordinary mastery that he showed in his paintings: the treatment of light, the portrayal of dead nature, and the ability to grasp the very moment that would make a painting eternal. “We might say Vermeer’s greatness lies more in the extraordinary depth of his vision rather than in his artistic inventiveness.” (Essential Vermeer)

And on top of all this, we should add the aura of mystery that surrounds all his paintings. Who was the girl with the pearl earring? Why most of his paintings take place in the same studio? Who was Vermeer himself?