The artist of the painting “The Glass of Wine” is Johaness Vermeer (1632-1675). He painted “The Glass of Wine” between 1658-1660. The painting is also known as “Lady and Gentleman drinking Wine” or in Dutch “Het Glas Wijn” and it portrays a seated woman and standing man in an interior setting. Nowadays, the painting can be found in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. The work is typical of the genre painting (images of domestic life, views of households, courtyards…) of the Delft School developed by Pietr de Hooch around 1650. It is a painting of the Baroque style, which it is characterized by its great drama, deep color, intense light and dark shadows.
But what does the painting suggest? It is important to take into consideration that the predominant figure in Vermeer’s works is usually the female character. However, sometimes the male figure intrudes into a domestice scene. This painting as can bee seen, is set in a daylight burgeois room and there is a man encouraging a young woman to dring wine. Wine is in my opinion the central motif in Vermeer’s work due to the fact that it was a forbidden pleasure for women. If a woman was intoxicated on wine, it was considered as a kind of sin. Furthermore, alchool was the first steo towards whoring.
If we now have a thorough look at the painting, we can see that the lute laid aside and the scattered sheet of music add a sexual undertone offset by the couple’s heavy clothing. The emblem of the 27th century was “If music be the food of love” (taken from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”). However, as we can see, their bodies are hidden behind fabrics and folds. His body is covered with a cloak and as we can see, he has not taken his hat yet. Her body is covered under a heavy dress and she is also wearing a headdress. Moreover, as it can be noticed, there is no physical contact, the man is the only one looking at the lady but she cannot see him because of the headdress and the glass that she is holding as can be seen in the image below:
As we have seen, there are characteristics that imply that the couple like each other, they feel a kind of desire, but at the same time, we can see that the heavy clothes mean that there is nothing between them. The open window is emblazoned with an emblem of temperance and it is important that we center in the window, because although it is open, there is not even a glimpse to the outside world. Scholars have suggested that the painting should be analized as a straightforward seduction.
To sum up, we have seen how one has to look carefully at the painting in order to be able to have a critical analysis of the painting, as there are many things related to sin, sex and temperance. In my opinion it is difficult to know whether the couple are attracted to each other or not because I think that their state of mind remais hidden and it is us, the ones who have to decide what kind of relation they have. Perhaps Vermeer wanted the viewer made their own conclusions as well as letting us being creative about it. If you want to learn more about the painting, I will write a second part about the painting technique, and finally, I will made a thir part with some curiosities that I have found.
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wine_Glass
- The complete interactive Vermeer catalogue, http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/glass_of_wine.html