A very intriguing figure was Jan Vermeer. Besides being a painting, Vermeer was also an art dealer and inn keeper. Eventually Vermeer entered the painters guild of Delft where he lived. Instead of seeking great fame, an international clientel base and many admirers, Vermeer painted mostly for only patrons who were local to the area. Indeed, there are only about forty canvases attributed to Jan Vermeer at all. This is very different from many other artists who today are revered and famous the world over.
Many of the canvases that Vermeer did make portray women as the main focus, often in their own homes going about their daily business. He did not seek out wealthy patrons in order to produce portraits for them or receive large commissions. Nor did Vermeer attempt to produce the genre scenes which were rising in popularity amid the growing middle class. Instead he produced canvases such as Woman with a Water Jug.
A woman stands by a window in Vermeer’s Woman with a Water Jug. She opens the window, glancing outside, clearly distracted by whatever is happening on the side of her window. One hand rests on the water jug which has been nearly forgotten as she watches the world outside the window. A tapestry hangs on the wall behind her, most of it cut off from view by the top and right borders of the canvas. In fact, many of Vermeer’s works have the same structure. A window usual sits on the left side of the painting from which light is streaming into the room. A table most often sits underneath the window or slightly more towards the center of the room, such as in this one. There usually a woman going about her daily activities. Sometime there are two women instead of one, such as two family members or a lady and her maid. Once in a while a gentleman is included in the painting as well.
There are only a few paintings which differ from this norm, one of which is, perhaps, one of the most iconic paintings from the last several centuries. Girl with a Pearl, is a very famous painting, inspiring many other paintings and artists throughout the years, along with a modern novel. There is no familiar setting as in most of Vermeer’s other works. We are presented with a girl with a pearl earring watching us from over one shoulder. Behind her is nothing but a vast swath of darkness and complete unknown. So intriguing is her glance that the painting is referred to as “the Mona Lisa of the North” or sometimes “The Dutch Mona Lisa.”
This great master artist who is comparable to Leonardo Da Vinci at his finest created so few works. But he is remembered more than so many others with whose works border upon the thousands. Vermeer is a truly amazing artist that gave the world only the very best paintings he had to offer.