Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)Baroque artist. Born and lived in Delft, the Netherlands. Because he worked slowly, he did not produce many paintings - about 34. He also liked to use bright colors which were often expensive. His favorites were ultramarine, cornflower blue, yellow. Most of his paintings are of interiors of ordinary life or portraits. You often get the feeling that you are intruding into someone's life.
There is a transparency in his paintings which he achieved by using a technique called pointille, which is applying paint to the canvas in loosely granular layers.
"The Music Lesson" was painted between 1662 and 1665. It measures 28 7/8ins by 25 3/8 ins. It is in the Royal Collection at St. James Palace, London.
A young woman is playing a virginal, a base viola lays on the floor behind her. Her music teacher is watching intently. You get the feeling that perhaps there is more to their relationship, at least on the part of the teacher. The painting is characterized by the use of perspective which draws our eye to the back of the room. But Vermeer has placed other objects in front which we notice first - the table,the bass viola, the chair. By doing this, Vermeer has , in a sense, protected the privacy of the pair. Light enters the windows, casting subtle shadows. An interesting element is the mirror hanging above the virginal. We see the image of the young woman as well as the viola. There is also an image of legs of an easel. It is as if Vermeer was putting himself in the picture.

"Comparing the girl with her reflection we can notice that the back of her head, directly seen, is more conventionally perceived, more recognizable, perhaps more touching, her reflected face, its detail dissolved, its humanity suspended in light, has a deeper kind of completeness. The face is reflected not only in the mirror but also in the painter's temperament. For the first time we have the sense that he has a use, however oblique, for the whole of human appearance." Lawrence Gowing, Vermeer, 1952

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