Samuel van Hoogstraten Rotterdam, To comprehend the artistic climate in which Vermeer worked, it is useful to consult prevalent art theory. In those times, it went without being questioned that history and the painting of human figures were the highest forms of art. Samuel Van Hoogstraten, who introduced the doctrine of the hierarchy of subjects to Dutch art theory in his Inleiding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkunst, wrote that the highest level the third in his scheme of painting was to show the noblest emotions and desires of rational human beings.
Oil on canvas, 92 x cm. Dordrecht Museum, Dordrecht Maids, who were considered a sort of necessary evil, enjoyed the dubious privilege of being the subject of popular literature and plays. They spoke their mind to their masters and mistress and were pictured as untrustworthy, the most dangerous women of all.
However, the fact that they are portrayed so many times in family portraits may indicate that some were successfully integrated into the family, the fundamental unit of Dutch society. Their importance was such that some towns had issued regulations to settle the disputes between masters and servants.
For example, if a servant had been hired with solid references from her last employer, the new employer was forbidden to fire her before the terms of the original hire, usually six months.
The Milkmaid, however, is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of the maid in the history of Dutch painting and has become to stand for domestic virtue and moral value of hard-working Dutch society as a whole.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam The fact that the Dutch word for clean schoon also means beautiful always draws a smile from those who are familiar with the cleanliness of Dutch homes.
According to an account of an English visitor, "The beauty and cleanliness of the streets are so extraordinary that Persons of all rank do not scruple, but seem to take pleasure in walking in them. A popular household manual devoted an entire chapter to the weekly task which was expected to be followed with religious devotion.
On every weekend morning, the steps of the house had to be cleaned, on Wednesday the whole house had to be gone over, Tuesday afternoons were devoted to dusting, Thursdays for scrubbing and scouring and Fridays the cleaning of the cellar and kitchen.
Although recent research has shown a growing concern of Italian writers in the 15th and 16th century for personal hygiene, cleanliness was confined to the higher echelons of urban society.
According to contemporary writing, ordinary citizens, the poor and peasants were either ignored or used as a dirty contrasts to the aristocracy, with peasants embodying the hallmark of filth.
Only maids that cleaned the houses of the bourgeois families were expected to maintain high standards of hygiene. Differently, in Holland, cleanliness involved the houses of a people both in towns and in the countryside. Foreign visitors on boat trips from Amsterdam witnessed the cleanliness in the surrounding villages.
The origins of Dutch cleanliness has never been fully explained.
Contemporary observers linked the vehement cleansing of houses, streets, and ships to the destructive humidity typical of Dutch climate. Regular scrubbing would prevent furniture and wooden floors from moulding and rotting. However, weather conditions were quite similar in other parts of the North Sea area where no such culture of cleanliness existed.
In a recent study the historians Bas van Bavel and Oscar Gelderblom have argued convincingly that Dutch cleanliness was closely bound to the commercialization of the all-important butter and dairy products both which require a extraordinary attention to hygiene.
They estimate that by the turn of the 16th century half of all rural households and up to one third of urban households in Holland produced butter and cheese.
The degree to which Vermeer abstracted the observed world into pictorial terms is so authoritative that it frequently escapes notice.
If one isolates the billowing starch-white sleeves from the rest of the painting, they are almost unrecognizable.
In short, abstraction reflects the way the human mind thinks. It tends to reduce the infinite complexities of visual phenomena to its simplest structure working towards the most regular, symmetrical geometrical shape attainable under the circumstances.
The mind abstracts visual information automatically without any conscious intervention. For the painter, abstraction is a tool which is consciously employed to aid recognition, but also to enhance those aspects of reality which he deems most important to communicate.
One of the greatest talents of Vermeer was his uncanny ability to relate painting technique, compositional design and, at times, even linear perspective to the theme of his work. This accomplishment is never achieved at the cost of subverting naturalism.Feb 08, · Peter Sutton, the Bruce's executive director and curator of the show, writing in the exhibition catalog, links the evolution of this theme in Dutch art to growing literacy levels and a popular craze for letter writing in 17th-century Holland.
The documentary film Tim's Vermeer documents inventor and entrepreneur Tim Jenison's attempt to recreate The Music Lesson to test his theory that Vermeer painted with the help of optical devices. Jenison is given the opportunity for a brief private viewing of the painting at Buckingham Palace.
an in-depth, interactive study of A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer. The difference between A Lady Writing and the iconographic traditions of genre paintings of women writing or receiving love letters is in large part a result of Vermeer’s focus on the individuality of the woman.
Because of her distinctive features, direct gaze, and closeness to the picture plane, the painting reads as much as a portrait as it does a genre scene.
Vermeer’s work displays an unprecedented level of artistic mastery in its illusion of reality. His figures are often quiet and inactive, contributing to the solemn and mysterious atmosphere of his paintings. an in-depth, interactive study of A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer.