c. 1663-1664

Oil on canvas
46.6 x 39.1 cm (18 11/32 x 15 13/32 in.)

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This is the painting I chose to do my presentation on. I will number some details I found interesting:


Vermeer has rendered an intense contrast by combining the dynamically expectant posture of the woman with a geometric composition that locks her in space.

2-The woman is placed precisely in the center of the composition.

A table and chairs erect a framework around her statuesque profile.

The strong horizontal of the bar at the bottom of the map focuses attention on her hands holding the letter.


Vermeer also used color to stabilize the design.

The blue of the jacket, chair and table coverings and the light brown of the dress and map exert a calming effect.


There are two light sources :

This serves to diffuse the shadows. The flow of light is subtly altered.While the chair and map cast shadows, the woman does not.

Encompassing the woman in a diffuse light separates her from her temporal framework. To intensify this effect, Vermeer went so far as to contour the figure with a line of light blue.


Large decorative wall maps adorn countless Dutch interior paintings of the 17th century.

They are found in almost every conceivable environment, from the shop of the lowly shoemaker to the refined dwellings of the Netherlands’s uppermost crust.


The chair is not merely a physical support and an aesthetic object; it is also an indicator of social rank.

Perhaps the most popular form of seating in the time of Vermeer was the so-called Spanish chair, two of which are represented in this painting.


The still life on the table is perhaps one of Vermeer’s most austere. It shows a string of pearls, an unfolded piece of paper (perhaps the first or second page of the letter).


It is believe that the blue garment, rarely depicted in Dutch painting, is to be identified as a beddejak, a garment with straight sleeves, usually blue or white satin, closed in the front with a row of bows.As implied by its name, the beddejak was a kind of casual attire worn in bed. Being made of satin, it was most likely reserved for the well-to-do. The intimate nature of this garment would suggest that the young woman has in fact just risen from her morning bed and reads her letter in the morning light.


In Dutch art, depictions of women reading letters almost always have love associations..Her bent neck, parted lips, and the drawn-up arms create a sense of expectancy.


This young woman has been often identified with the artist’s wife. There is no objective support even though it is well known that artists of the time frequently employed family members as models.

Citation: (2010, May 05). In ESSENTIAL VERMEER. Retrieved 12:50, May 05, 2010 from,


Jan Vermeer van Delft 011.jpg Warm colors, memorable faces, and lighting touched with shadow are elements found in the famous paintings of seventeenth century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

In 1632, Johannes Vermeer was born in the city of Delft, in the Netherlands. According to The Life of Johannes Vermeer , his early education included a six year apprenticeship with an artist whose name is lost to history. At the age of twenty-one, Vermeer married a woman named Catharina Bolnes. They had eleven children over the course of their life together. Read the information located at Johannes Vermeer’s History , and you’ll find that although Vermeer’s paintings were well-known in Delft, his artwork was not familiar to people who lived outside the city. The article points out that most of the thirty-five paintings that Vermeer created in his lifetime were displayed in the collection of a patron who lived in Delft. Vermeer endured many financial set backs later in his life that were connected with the art dealing business he conducted. He died at forty-three, leaving his young family with debts to settle. As is the case with many gifted painters, Vermeer’s artwork was not fully appreciated during his lifetime.

There are three facts about artist Johannes Vermeer’s life and work that are surprising. The first interesting fact is that we do not know what Vermeer looked like. While some artists create canvas after canvas of their own likenesses, the physical traits of Johannes Vermeer are unknown. According to the information found at, Facts about Artist Johannes Vermeer , there is a man peeking out at the viewer from one side of Vermeer’s work, The Procuress , that may be Vermeer himself. However, the identity of the man has never been confirmed.

The second intriguing fact about Vermeer and his work is that he reportedly used a camera obscura in his painting process. At Characteristics of Vermeer’s Work , he is said to have used a small device with a dark chamber that its user peers into, to achieve the “panoramic representation” of his well-known work, entitled View of Delft . This camera obscura was still a new and controversial device for artists at that time.

The third fact of interest is discussed at Vermeer and His Masterpiece . The identity of the girl staring out of Vermeer’s painting entitled, Girl with a Pearl Earring , is still an unsolved mystery today. The article suggests that the girl in the painting may be Vermeer’s daughter, Maria, who would have been about twelve years old in 1665 or 1666, when the painting was created. Magdalena Van Ruijven, the daughter of Vermeer’s patron, is another idea put forth as to the identity of the wide-eyed girl in the painting. Once again, Magdalena would’ve been about twelve years old, the predicted age of the model in the portrait. Finally, the article puts forth a third theory, that a maid for the Vermeer family, named Griet, may be the subject in the painting. But, there are no known records that give credence to that theory. In short, trying to guess who the girl is in Girl with the Pearl Earring is part of the viewer’s enjoyment.

If you would like to enjoy Vermeer’s work in a more personal way, here are some places to visit:

Museum for Vermeer Enthusiasts : Travel here and this museum will offer information on visiting its Vermeer exhibits.

A Visit to See the Vermeer Paintings : This museum offers works of Vermeer and helpful descriptions along with the artwork.

Collection Offers a View of Vermeer : Paintings by Vermeer can be seen in this collection. In addition, enlightening details about his work are offered here.

Gallery with Johannes Vermeer : One of Vermeer’s most famous paintings is a feature of this gallery.

Vermeer Work a Treasure of This Gallery : Visit and learn more about Vermeer’s artwork at this famous gallery.

Paintings of Vermeer Add Beauty to This Collection : Vermeer’s work is well-placed among the masterpieces found here.

A Gathering of Vermeer’s Work : Examine Johannes Vermeer’s seventeenth century work using twenty-first century technology at this web museum.

Johannes Vermeer was in his early forties when he died, but the paintings he created in his short lifetime will continue to be enjoyed by art lovers for centuries to come.