zaterdag 21 mei 2011

The Wineglass (1659 - 1664)

The wineglassBerlinn, Gemäldegalerie SMPK / / www.smb.spk-berlin.deThe Wine Glass (also known as The Glass of Wine or Lady and Gentleman Drinking Wine) portrays a seated woman and a standing man drinking in an interior setting. It contains figures situated in a brightly lit and spacious interior, while its architectural space is highly defined. In addition, the work's figures are set in the middle ground, rather than positioned in the foreground.

The work is, in many aspects, typical of the genre painting of the Delft School developed by Pieter de Hooch in the late 1650s. The concept of figures drinking around a table, and the portrayal of a woman drinking from a glass are taken directly from De Hooch's A Dutch Courtyard. However, Vermeer's work breaks away from the prototypes of De Hooch in that the interior is rendered in a far more elegant and higher-class setting than the older master's works.

Compared to his earlier paintings, Johannes Vermeer's brushwork in The Wine Glass is subdued, while the faces and clothes of the figures are depicted with wide smooth outlines. Only in the tapestry of the tablecloth and the window glass did the artist apply finely detailed, linear brush strokes.


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About Vermeers work

The milkmaid (1658)

Vermeer painting The milkmaidThe Milkmaid was painted in about 1657–58. It may be considered one of the last works of the artist's early, formative years, during which he adopted various subjects and styles from other painters and at the same time introduced effects based on direct observation and an unusually refined artistic sensibility.

In The Milkmaid, Vermeer created his most illusionistic image. To modern viewers the picture may resemble a photograph. However, the composition is exquisitely designed, as is evident from several revisions made in the course of execution and from subtle relationships of light and shadow, color, contours, and shapes. A low vantage point and a pyramidal buildup of forms from the left foreground to the woman's head lend the figure monumentality and perhaps a sense of dignity.

And yet, like milkmaids and kitchen maids in earlier Netherlandish art, and like other young women in Vermeer's oeuvre, this figure was meant to attract the male viewer and to have her own thoughts of romance. For at least two centuries before Vermeer's time, milkmaids and kitchen maids had (or were assigned) a reputation for amorous predispositions. Netherlandish artists adopted this theme in works ranging in tone from coarsely erotic to slyly suggestive. In The Milkmaid, Vermeer characteristically goes in the direction of understatement. The image of Cupid on a Delft tile next to the foot warmer—which can imply arousal of the fairer sex—would appear to intimate that the woman has feelings as well as obligations.


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vrijdag 20 mei 2011

Officer and laughing girl (1658)

Washington, National Gallery /

While painting with a brush loaded with pigments and applying them in a granulous fashion by thick dabs, Vermeer ingeniously develops his mastery as a luminist. The young woman is bathed in light, which streams in through the half open window to the left, and reflects itself from the cream-coloured background that is enhanced to the left by very thin glazes of slightly pinkish tonalities. Her face, exceptionally conveying expression - joy and laughter - appears framed in a kerchief and the collar of her dress. That part of the figure, especially, reveals itself as a symphony of luminosity, set off by the dark sleeves of the yellow jacket on which glittering highlights dance. In contrast, the soldier in the black hat and red jacket is placed close to the viewer, from whom he turns his back. He is hardly more than a silhouette, but rather overpowering, given the relative importance accorded his bodily appearance.

The nearest foreground - the soldier on his chair and the dark-green part of the table cover - are so strongly enhanced that the use of an optical instrument by Vermeer for the structuring of the composition seems indisputable. We have here the typical effect of the inverted telescope: the foreground standing out in the manner of stage scenery, while the figure of the girl recedes into space. On the back of the wall, we find for the first time a map. This element of decoration reappears frequently in the artist's subsequent works.


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woensdag 18 mei 2011

Vermeer painting View of Delft (1658)

Vermeer painting View of DelftThe Hague, Mauritshuis /

View of Delft is one of the most famous paintings by Vermeer. Topographic views of cities had become a tradition by the time Vermeer painted this famous canvas.

Vermeer executed his View of Delft on the spot, but the optical instrument pointed toward the city and providing the artist with the aspect translated onto canvas, was not the camera obscura but the inverted telescope. It is only the latter that condenses the panoramic view of a given sector, diminishes the figures of the foreground to a smaller than normal magnification, emphasizes the foreground as we see it in the picture, and makes the remainder of the composition recede into space.

The image thus obtained provides us with optical effects that convey a cityscape that is united in the composition and enveloped atmospherically into glowing light. We admire the town, but it is not a profile view of a township, but an idealized representation of Delft, with its main characteristics simplified and then cast into the framework of a harbour mirroring selected reflections in the water, and a rich, full sky with magnificent cloud formations. The artist outdid himself in a rendition of his hometown, which stands as a truly great interpretation of nature.

In recent art history literature it has been assumed that King William I of Orange (who reigned 1813-1840) appreciated the painting and decided to buy it because "knew that one day he too, would be interred in the crypt under his ancestor's monument". The story of the purchase of the View of Delft is more complicated than that. The King did not actually choose the painting himself, it was chosen by the director of the Rijksmuseum. The histories of the Royal Collection of paintings Mauritshuis and the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam are quite intertwined during the reign of William I. In 1822 there was a batch of paintings to be distributed between the Rijksmusem and the Mauritshuis and the director of the Rijksmuseum actually preferred another painting at that time.

Be that as it may - William I would have indeed appreciated the Johannes Vermeer painting as it highlights the tower of the New Church, which houses the marble grave monument of his predecessor Willem of Orange (who reigned in the 16th C.).

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donderdag 12 mei 2011

Vermeer painting A Maid asleep (1657)

Vermeer painting A Maid asleepNew York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This large canvas is probably Vermeer's earliest picture of everyday life, and dates from slightly before The Milkmaid. The differences in scale and technique between the two works reflect the young painter's program of reviewing alternative styles in the Netherlandish art world of the time. Here the warm palette, rich shadows, and frontal presentation of the figure, the table, and walls recall genre scenes of the mid-1650s by Nicolaes Maes.

Vermeer's subject is an overdressed maid, dozing and dreaming of love (the painting above her, with Cupid's leg, stands for "Love unmasked"). The recent presence of a male companion is suggested by the large glass (which has suffered wear) to the lower left, the bowl of fruit, the chair shoved aside, and the open door.

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Vermeer painting Girl reading a letter (1657)

Dresden, Staatliche Gemäldegalerie

Yearning for the outside world, open windows frequently have a figurative meaning in Vermeer's paintings. Taken together with the letter the girl is holding, this motif represents the desire to break free from the restrictions of the home and make contact with the outside world.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is usually considered to be an early work. It shows a young woman at an open window, reading with great inner tension and attentiveness a love letter that has been addressed to her. We see her in profile, but her face is reflected at a slight angle in the lightly coloured, uneven glass panes of the leaded window (the same feature occurs in the picture Soldier and a Laughing Girl).

The fact that it is open does of course superficially serve to increase the amount of light falling into the rather dark room, but in another sense it represents the woman's longing to extend her domestic sphere, and her desire for contact with the outside world, from which she, as a housewife forced to keep to her society's norms, is largely isolated.

The bowl of fruit in Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, which is lying on the folds of the table rug, is a symbol of extramarital relations, which broke the vow of chastity. Such a relationship is being planned or continued by means of this letter, and the apples and peaches (malum persicum) are intended to remind us of Eve's transgression. The yellowish-green silk curtain and rail is an artistic piece of bravura on the part of Vermeer.

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woensdag 11 mei 2011

Discover Vermeer in historic Delft

To understand Vermeer, I recommend to take the time to visit the old city of Delft and see history come to life. The unique market square is only a few steps away from the Vermeer Centrum.

To see all sites linked to the life of Vermeer, try the walking tour. A map is currently on sale at the Vermeer Centrum for only € 1,00 and includes a free coffee. It shows the location of the Oude and Nieuwe Kerk and the Prinsenhof Museum, but also the sites where some of his famous works like the view on Delft were painted.

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dinsdag 10 mei 2011

De Gitaarspeelster (1670 - 1671)

Londen, Kenwood House /

Samen met De kantwerkster een van de hoogtepunten in Vermeers oeuvre. De schilder was inmiddels meester van het licht en kleuren geworden. Technisch gezien permitteerde hij zichzelf vrijheid van expressie door lossere penseelstreken die niet langer gebonden zijn aan specifieke textuur of materialen.
Het model kijkt naar de buitenwereld en straalt uit dat ze er eenvoudigweg plezier in heeft om muziek te maken. Het landschap op de achtergrond schijnt geschilderd te zijn in de stijl van Hackaert.

Een oude copie bevindt zich in het Museum of Art, Philadelphia. Het enige verschil met de versie in hete Kenwood House is het kapsel van de gitaarspeelster, wier stijl wijst op de mode rond 1700. Het zou interessant zijn om dit schilderij schoon te maken en met röntgenstralen te bekijken over dit kapsel is overgeschilderd.


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zaterdag 7 mei 2011

Events and meetings at the Vermeer Centrum in Delft

The Vermeer Centrum Delft offers a quite unique location for formal business meetings, course presentations and receptions or functions.

Accommodating groups of up to one hundred persons, the ambiance of the Vermeer Centrum ensures a memorable experience for any occasion.

Business meeting rooms are available for either full or half day hire. An extra venue situated at Voldersgracht 11, accommodates groups of up to twelve people.

The Van Mierlo-Hall, on the second floor of the Vermeer Centre accommodates larger groups from thirty to eighty persons. A lunch or dinner onsite is possible as well.

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vrijdag 6 mei 2011

Zittende Virginaalspeelster (1674 - 1675)

Vermeer schilderij Zittende virginaalspeelsterLonden, National Gallery /

Links op de voorgrond staat een viola da gamba met de strijkstok tussen de snaren geplaatst. Op het virginaal is een landschap te zien en het schilderij op de achtergrond is 'De koppelaarster' door Dirck van Baburen of een kopie ervan. Of het onderwerp van dit laatste schilderij een bedoeling moet hebben, is onduidelijk. Waarschijnlijk heeft Vermeer een algemene associatie tussen muziek en liefde bedoeld.

Men heeft wel gesuggereerd dat dit werk en 'Staande virginaalspeelster' met elkaar gerelateerd zijn, vanwege nagenoeg gelijke omvang en datering en gerelateerde onderwerpen, maar dit is twijfelachtig. In de 19e eeuw bevonden beide schilderijen zich in de collectie van de kunstcriticus Théophile Thoré, wiens artikelen de herontdekking van Vermeer in 1866 aanwakkerden.


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donderdag 5 mei 2011

Staande Virginaalspeelster (1670)

Londen, National Gallery /

Vermeer schilderde vrouwen vaak in een muziekuitvoering, omdat de harmonie in muziek werd geassocieerd met harmonieuze liefde. Dit schilderij heeft waarschijnlijk de zinnelijke liefde als onderwerp, gezien het schilderij-in-het-schilderij waarop Amor een boog vasthoudt en daarnaast een speelkaart omhooghoudt. Deze afbeelding is afkomstig uit een embleemboek en kan verwijzen naar de trouw aan een minnaar.

Vermeers werk wordt altijd ervaren als geheimzinnig en niet als eenduidig uit te leggen. Tegelijkertijd is dat ook zijn grote kracht. Als het schilderij inderdaad gaat over pure liefde, dan houdt de dame de toeschouwer enigszins op afstand door haar lichaamstaal. Er is ook koelte in het schilderij, met een gezicht van de dame dat enigszins naar het groen neigt. Dit is mogelijk ook te wijten aan het chemisch verval van de pigmenten. Hoe het werk ook wordt geduid, het blijft een wonderlijk en magisch geheel dat altijd vragen blijft oproepen.


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maandag 2 mei 2011

De Geograaf (1669)

Vermeer schilderij De GeograafFrankfurt am Main, Städelsches Museum /

De geograaf toont de wetenschapper in een moment van reflectie. De wetenschappelijke voorwerpen die hem omringen duiden op de jachtige activiteiten die aan de contemplatie voorafging.

De globe van Jodocus Hondius laat ons de Indische Oceaan zien, of een verwijzing naar de voor de Republiek economisch zo belangrijke regio of een benadrukking van het wetenschappelijk karakter van het werk, de andere kant van de bol is namelijk rijkelijk versierd. Aan de muur een kaart van Europa door Willem Jansz. Blaeu uit 1600 en op tafel een opgerolde kaart die ernstig heeft geleden onder diverse restauraties.


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zondag 1 mei 2011

De Astronoom (1668)

Vermeer schilderij De AstronoomParijs, Louvre /

De astronoom toont een wetenschapper die een hemelbol van Jodocus Hondius bestudeert, op tafel de Institutiones Astronomicae et Geographicae van Adriaan Metius uit 1621 en aan de muur een bijbelse afbeelding van de gevonden Mozes. In de 17e eeuw waren astronomie en navigatie namelijk nauw met elkaar verbonden. wordt vaak beschouwd als de eerste bekende navigator omdat hij zijn volk door de Rode Zee voerde. (ontleend aan Wikipedia)

Het is een vrijwel onuitroeibare mythe dat dit schilderij, net als De Geograaf, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek afbeeldt hoewel daar geen direct bewijs voor bestaat.

Zo waren Van Leeuwenhoek en Johannes Vermeer plaatsgenoten en waren zij even oud. Zowel Van Leeuwenhoek als Vermeers vader waren actief in de lakenhandel. Daar de afbeeldingen van de vorsende mens zo volledig afwijken van Vermeers overig werk zijn zij vrijwel zeker in opdracht vervaardigd.


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