The Concert

This semester, I have been working on The Concert painted by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (c. 1664). In March 1990, it was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. According to the BBC, exactly 21 years on, the Gardner robbery remains the largest single property theft of all time; artworks, including Vermeer’s ‘The Concert’, estimated $500 million have never seen again.

In the 17th century, music was an integral part of Dutch life in every rung of society. Musical gatherings, such at the one represented in the The Concert, were not only a pleasurable way of entertainment, but also an accepted way to promote social contacts particularly with the opposite sex, otherwise, highly regulated. Although there is no evidence that Vermeer drew the present composition directly from another work, there exists an almost infinite number of loosely arranged musicians, which formed a popular genre called the “merry company.”

Johannes Vermeer was a genius in the use of colour and light, the bright yellow of the young girl’s silk jacket catches the observer’s attention. While artists produced colours through multi-layered techniques, Vermeer worked principally with the primary colours: blue, red and yellow. Areas of silvery grays and subtle browns enclose measured areas of the primary colours; such as, the wonderful lemon jacket resonates against the gray background wall. The costume of nearly every key figure is painted with primary colours; on the other hand, secondary figures are rendered in dull or secondary hues.

It is worth mentioning, the painting that hangs in the upper right side. This picture, The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen, most likely belonged to Vermeer’s mother-in-law, Maria Thins. It portrays a young female prostitute, a bearded man who is the client and an older woman, the procuress, who points to her opened hand demanding the money. The composition parallels the group below; thus, the older singing woman to the right would be the procuress, the seated lutenist, the client and the seated harpsichordist the prostitute.

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