The Vermeer Art Gallery

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Vermeer loved to grasp the private moment. Here a woman is presented a love note by her maid. She glances up with a look of apprehension and the maid reassuringly gazes back down upon her. The woman has obviously been consoling herself with her instrument (remember Achilles) and with the picture in the background, Vermeer hints that her love is at sea. He has added to the sense of our intrusion by placing the viewer in a closet (the curtain briefly drawn back) to view this most confidential moment.

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The back of the painter's head is easily recognized as that of Albrecht Durer, and the easel he paints upon resembles the "A" in Durer's signature. The model is Clio, the muse of history (the volume under her arm is from the historian, Thucydides) and the map on the wall displays the wonders of the Netherlands. Durer, much influenced by the Proquizantism of Martin Luther, loved the God of history and creation. This combination of elements invokes a theme that is so inviting for Vermeer that he has graciously pulled back the curtain and provided us with a chair that we, too, might sit and admire this great artist lovingly going about his craft.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Milkmaid shines in quiet beauty, but if you look hard enough you can hear the milk splash as she pours it from her pitcher. Through his dazzling use of light, Vermeer elevates this simple moment of hearty provision into a heavenly vision of God's providential care.

Mauritshuis, The Hague
This girl can be seen as nothing but ravishing. In such pure beauty one can find no grounds for resistance but must grant simple awe. What potent charms might today's tight-fitted fillies learn from such grace.

National Gallery, London
For a moment this young lady has turned away from her playing to throw us a most forward glance. She does not desire mere attention, but is beckoning us to the instrument that conveniently awaits that we might join our lovely sounds to hers. As a warning against the passionate perils that such delightful interplay might produce, Vermeer provides a rather stern insinuation with "The Procuress" in the background.

National Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C.
This painting is certainly one of Vermeer's most moving as it presents the theme of Christ's judgment very powerfully. The light from the window divides the picture into two parts along its diagonal. In the light section we see a woman in serene contemplation, while in the dark section we see jewels and worldly wealth. Separating the two sections are the scales of judgment which lay empty for they are to judge the immaterial souls of men. Who will deliver this judgment? The One whom the woman (Mary) bears. Vermeer makes this point twice by placing the Christ Child on the painting's diagonal and by providing the painting of the Last Judgment in the background.

If you are interested in knowing more about the paintings of Jan Vermeer, Jan Vermeer by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. (Thames and Hudson Ltd., London; 1988) will be very helpful.

For more about Vermeer see -