Woman Holding a Balance

“Sus formas visuales hacen referencia al mundo mental, al interior de las personas, a la autoconciencia. Trasciende lo cotidiano, presenta una belleza absoluta. Se dice que es un pintor que detiene el tiempo, el momento, el instante congelado”.

Alejandro Vergara, jefe de Conservación de pintura flamenca y escuelas del Norte

Vermeer is thought to have been inspired in The Goldweigher painted by Pieter de Hooch in 1664. Nevertheless, this influence is far from being coincidental as it indicates the close relation that existed between the two painters. While De Hooch appears to be more concentrated on the geometrical and the anecdotal details, Vermeer adds spiritual and allegorical values to the scene, becoming more complex in meaning.

Woman Holding a Balance

Pieter de Hooch The Goldweigher 1664

Woman Holding a Balance (1664)              The Goldweigher (1664)

As it can be clearly seen, the central point of the painting is occupied by the balance, as the orthogonal lines seem to meet in the balance.

Woman Holding a Balance, compositionWoman
The Woman
The Woman appears to be wearing delicate and elegant clothes that seem to correspond to the Dutch Haute bourgeoisie. She is wearing an open white cup which was not only ornamental but it served to protect the coiffeur when dressing. This white cup can also be seen in other paintings by Vermeer and in other paintings of the time.

The Last Judgment
The woman appears to be framed in the painting that darkly hangs behind her: The Last Judgment. It has been claimed that it corresponds to Jacob de Backer as he also painted The Last Judgment with the particularity of depicting Christ with his arms raised.


Pieter de Backer, The Last Judgment (1580)

The Balance
The woman is attentively waiting until the two scales of the balance come into balance. Nevertheless, there is nothing on the pans that is being weight. Therefore, this suggests that something more important than mere pearls is being weight.

The Mirror
The woman is looking at a mirror that hangs from the wall. Mirrors were quite recurrent in the 17th century arts. For example: Annibale Carrici’s Venus Adorned by the Graces (1590-5) and Diego Velázque’s  La Venus del Espejo (1648-51). They meant self-knowledge and truth

Since the central focus is on the balance, this painting suggests the importance of sel-temperance and balance to conduct our life. As the woman seems to be framed in the Last Judgment it can also be claimed that this painting is warning us about the ephemeral of human life and that the earthly pleasures are not important. Nevertheless, the woman’s expression of the face inspires calm and tranquility which provides us with comfort and reassurance.