The Painting


The Art of Painting

Jan Vermeer

c. 1666-73; Oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

One response to “The Painting

  1. The following link to the Washington DC gallery page is well worth reading and the excerpt here is from that page:

    “The mimetic power of Vermeer’s painting is embodied clearly in its strong illusionism, but he also refers to it symbolically. On the table in front of Clio is a mask, which was an established symbol of imitation and the attribute given to the personification of Painting in Ripa’s Iconologia. The book describes the allegorical figure of Painting as: “A beautiful Woman…with a gold chain on the neck on which hangs a Stage Mask….She should hold a brush in one hand and a Palette in the other.” These prescriptions were followed closely by Vermeer’s contemporary, Frans van Mieris, in his painting of the same theme . He adhered to the established conventions of allegory painting by depicting the abstract concept in the form of a single female figure. Vermeer departed radically from this tradition, breathing new life into the coded language of allegory and presenting the symbolic mask as a studio prop left casually on the table.” -end of quote.

    It can also be noted, though not necessarily in reference to te Art of Painting, that another mask may be seen in the painting-within-a-painting on the wall behind the Sleeping Maid/Girl. The painting, attributed to Everdingen, was a very direct painted version of a Love EMBLEM. The portion seen in Vermeer’s painting is the leg of a Cupid with it’s mask under foot. The whole of the Cupid painting is of the cupid holding up a card with a number “one” on it. The moral being: We should be faithful to one love only. Therefore, the mask indicates duplicity of intent and the unfaithfulness of the wine-inebriated girl. The MASK is commonly used as the symbol of ACTORS, even in the symbolism of the theatre today. Jesus Christ, when admonishing the Scribes and Pharisees with His list of “Woes”, called them
    “hypocrites”, which is the Greek word for ACTORS. The Greek actors, literally wore masks of the characters they portrayed.

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