The Procuress is one of the three pictures that have a concrete date in Vermeer’s career as a painter. This information is given by the very painter on the low bottom of the picture: “i v Meer 1656″ -”ivM” in ligature. This makes the picture not only one of the most popular pictures by Vermeer which usually leads and represents his early stage, but also one of the pictures that can be taken to draw the line of evolution of Vermeer’s painting skills.
Another important aspect Vermeer took into account when painting is the topic and the implications of painting a “brothel”. Brothel painters usually included a self-portrait in the pictures and Vermeer, as critics say nowadays, is no exception. He is supposed to have painted himself in the skin of the jester, the man in black in the left side of the picture. Nevertheless, he has also included original elements in his picture. First of all, the very procuress is very different from the usual style of depicting them. They tend to be very old and decrepit, full of wrinkles and they are often much worried of the economic transaction. They also tend to show very rude manners and strict behaviour. On the other hand, Vermeer’s procuress is much calmer and seems relatively kind. Besides, she looks quite pretty. It is widely known that procuresses were very aware of the power of money and sex, and they were very sly. This is somehting that Vermeer has depicted fairly well, for the procuress in his paiting seems to be a sly, cunning woman.
Moreover, the very whore too seems to have something different and original in herself. Whores used to be very sensual, with exotic and erotic elements that dressed them superb, like that of Gerrit van Honthorst, though the one in Vermeer’s work is not so much of an exotic woman with big breasts. She wears a yellow dress with no neckline. She also has this white cap with delicate details. She is no common whore for a brothel picture.
On the other hand, The Procuress is a painting that marks the beginning of Vermeer’s true and best carrer. Later works are examples of his mastery over light and shadow. In The Procuress, Vermeer experiments with the chiaroscuro effect, as can be seen in below in the very picture. Also, although the warm colors used, which remind the viewer of Rembrandt and his followers -1650s-, and even maybe Maes, the picture, due to its topic and structure, is considered as a piece of the Utrecht Caravaggists. The resemblance between those -frequent in the 1620s- and The Procuress is clear, though the influence of Rembrendt is also clear.
Andrei Vázquez Latorre