vrijdag 25 februari 2011

The procuress (1656)

Dresden, Staatliche Gemäldegalerie

Only three works by Vermeer are dated: this one of 1656, The Astronomer of 1668, and The Geographer of 1669. The Procuress is a crucial work for understanding Vermeer's development and relationship with the Delft school. The decade of the 1650s was a transitional period for artists in the city who were responding as never before to styles and subjects developed for the most part elsewhere in Holland.

Large ribald "merry company" pictures were popularized by Gerard van Honthorst and others in Utrecht in the 1620s. Many works of this type feature a balustrade or other barrier in the foreground, often with a carpet thrown over it. Vermeer appears to have combined this spatial device with a close, downward view of a table. The viewer is placed disconcertingly near the revelers who, while not standoffish, are unconcerned with what we think.

The figure on the left, probably a self-portrait, seems spliced in from another context. The mirrorlike immediacy of this passage, with its soft-focus light, could have been inspired by the works of Carel Fabritius. Throughout the picture, sudden shifts in depth, definition, and texture reveal a spirit of intense experimentation and, to some extent, forecast Vermeer's later optical effects.

The grinning glance of the dandy in the outdated doublet draws attention to the objects in his hands. Of the lute we are shown only a phallic fragment, held erect under the more feminine form of the glass.

More information on Vermeers paintings


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