Johannes Vermeer (1632 -  1675): Lady Standing at a

Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675): Lady Standing at a

7/20/2021, 11:30:28 AM
Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675): Lady Standing at a Virginal, c. 1670, Oil on canvas, 51,7 x 45,2 cm, National Gallery, London Our last painting by Vermeer hangs at the National Gallery, London, together with A Lady Seated at the Virginal. There is no certitude that the two are companion pieces, but they obviously are closely related as to subject matter. The technique exemplifies in both instances Vermeer's late period. It is signed on the instrument. The young woman strokes the keys of the virginal but looks expectantly out of the picture. Music, we recall, is the 'food of love', and the empty chair calls to mind an absent sitter, perhaps travelling abroad among the mountains depicted in the picture on the wall and on the lid of the virginal. Cupid holding up a playing card or tablet has been related to an emblem of fidelity to one lover, as illustrated in one of the popular contemporary Dutch emblem books, where the image is explained in the accompanying motto and text. The rectangular and precise forms of the windows, tiles, framed paintings, instrument and chair all echo each other, while also activating the spaces between them. In contrast to the diffused outlines and denser atmosphere of Vermeer's paintings of the 1660s, this work from the early 1670s is more crystalline in atmosphere, the outlines are defined with greater precision and the picture surface is smoother. However, what has not changed is the artist's skill in capturing the effects of light. Cool daylight streams in through the window on the left, as it always does in his pictures. The textures of grey-veined marble and white-and-blue Delft tiles, of gilt frame and whitewashed wall, of blue velvet and taffeta and white satin, of scarlet bows, are differentiated through the action of this light in their most minute particularities and specific lustre. Volume is revealed, shadows cast and space created. Yet the real magic of the painting is that all this does not, as it were, exhaust the light. Enough of it remains as a palpable presence diffused throughout the room to reach out to us beyond the picture's frame.

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