Johannes Vermeer

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Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer
Detail of the painting The Procuress (c. 1656), considered to be a self portrait by Vermeer
Birthday/Birthplace Baptized (1632-10-31)31 October 1632
Delft, Dutch Republic
Deceased buried 15 December 1675(1675-12-15)
Delft, Dutch Republic
Citizenship Dutch
School(s) Carel Fabritius?
Credit for Painting
Cool work 34 works have been universally attributed to him
Movement Dutch Golden Age

Johannes Vermeer van Delft / joɦɑnəs vərmeːr vɑn dɛlft / (baptized in Delft on October 31, 1632-ibid, December 15, 1675), called by his contemporaries Joannis see Meer or Joannis van der Meer and even Jan See Meer , is one of the most renowned Dutch painters of Baroque art. He lived during the so-called Dutch Golden Age, in which the United Provinces of the Netherlands experienced an extraordinary political, economic and cultural flourishing.

Vermeer’s complete work is very limited; Only 33 to 35 paintings are known, which may have been due to the fact that he painted for patrons, on commission, more than for the art market.

He painted other works, lost today, which are known by old auction records. His first works were of historical type, but he achieved fame thanks to his painting of manners, often considered a genre, which forms the majority of his production. His best known paintings are Vista de Delft and La joven de la perla. In life he was a painter of moderate success. He did not have an easy life, perhaps due to the scarce number of paintings he produced, and upon his death left debts to his wife and eleven children.

Virtually forgotten for two centuries, from the mid-nineteenth century Vermeer’s painting had wide recognition. Théophile Thoré contributed to the consecration of Vermeer with some very complimentary newspaper articles. He is currently considered one of the greatest painters in the Netherlands. He is also particularly recognized for his expertise in the use and treatment of light.

Johannes Vermeer’s Biography

Map of Delft in 1649, by Joan Blaeu.

There is little information about the life of Johannes Vermeer, only some basic facts recorded in records and legal documents, as well as comments about him from other artists. Because of this, Thoré called it the “Delft Sphinx”.

The date of birth is not known precisely, although it is known that he was baptized as a Christian in the Nieuwe Kerk Protestant Church of the city of Delft on October 31, 1632, under the name of Joannis. He was the second son, and only male, of Reynier Jansz and Digna Baltens. His father came from Antwerp, and in 1611 he moved to Amsterdam, working as a silk weaver, a trade that belonged to the middle class. In 1615 he married Digna, born in Antwerp, moving with the name of Vos to Delft, where he opened in 1641 an inn called the Mechelen in memory of a famous beffroi (tower-belfry) of Mechelen (Mechelen in Flemish) who was in the vicinity of the “halle” or market square of the city of Delft. There Joannes realized being almost child the necessities of commerce; After the death of his father, in 1652, Joannes inherited the premises with his father’s business affairs. In addition, Reynier Jansz officially belonged to the Guild of San Lucas de Delft as an art dealer. There Jansz met painters such as Pieter van Steenwyck, Balthasar van der Ast and Pieter Groenewegen.

However, although Vermeer van Delft was from the Protestant family, he married a young Catholic woman named Catherina Bolnes in April 1653. It was an unfortunate marriage: in addition to the religious differences (very much at risk for that time), the family of the wife was richer than the Vermeer. It seems that he himself had converted before marriage because his progeny had names of the Catholic saints; In addition, among other things, one of his paintings called The allegory of faith, reflects the faith in the Eucharist, but it is not known if it refers to the faith of Vermeer or his comitente. Shortly after the nuptials, the couple moved to the home of Catherina’s mother, Maria Thins, a widow of good economic status who lived in the Catholic neighborhood of the city. Vermeer would have lived here with his whole family for the rest of his life. Maria played a fundamental role in the work of this painter: not only was the first granddaughter named after her, she also used her income to achieve the fame of her son-in-law in the art world. Johannes and his wife had fifteen sons and daughters, four of whom died before the christening.


About his training as a painter there is no safe information. He became a member of the San Lucas guild on December 29, 1653 as a free painter. To this fact had to precede a wide formation of six years of learning, because only as a teacher could be a member of the guild. It is possible that Vermeer was a student of Leonaert Bramer, a hypothesis that has not had much echo because of the differences in style, even though a relationship between both is documented. Contacts have also been shown with Gerard ter Borch, and it has also been speculated that he was a student of Carel Fabritius, who in turn had been educated in Rembrandt’s workshop. This hypothesis was widely accepted since the nineteenth century, Théophile Thoré defended it and is still widespread, but experts now doubt its veracity. Instead, it is often mentioned to Pieter de Hooch, who lived in Delft between 1652 and 1661, as one of the main influences of Vermeer, since you can recognize the style of Hooch, refined and profiled, in the painting of Vermeer customs .

Family life and work

Military and girl laughing (1658).

Johannes Vermeer married on April 20, 1653 with Catharina Bolnes in Schipluy, a town near Delft. Catharina’s mother, Maria Thins, initially opposed the marriage. One of the reasons could be Vermeer’s Calvinist confession, while Catharina Bolnes was Catholic. Only after the recommendation of the Catholic painter Leonaert Bramer decided Maria Thins accept marriage. Whether Vermeer became a Catholic or not, is still being discussed.

In 1660, Vermeer moved with his wife to her mother-in-law’s house in the Oude Langendijk. With Catharina Bolnes she had fifteen children, of whom at least four died as children. It seems that Johannes Vermeer did not earn enough money to feed his large family. Because he painted an average of only two paintings a year, he had to have other sources of funding. It is known that he helped his mother in the bar Mechelen, in the Great Market of Delft, which she had inherited to the death of her husband and in which Vermeer most likely had his art business installed, a widespread activity among painters Dutch of the seventeenth century. In the years 1662 and 1663, as well as in 1670 and 1671, Vermeer was dean of the guild (or gulde) of St. Luke. Like all seventeenth-century artisans, it must belong to a guild in order to carry out its activity and this in turn fixed the rules with which its members worked. The position of dean was very influential, which shows that Vermeer was a respected character in Delft.

Vermeer could see in life that his paintings reached high prices. He painted few paintings for the free market of art; his paintings were mostly for patrons, like the baker Hendrick van Buyten. But it is not known if the patrons entrusted the paintings to the painter or if they only had a preferential right to purchase, and it has already been mentioned that in addition to his artistic activity, Vermeer worked as an art expert. Thus, for example, he verified the authenticity of a collection of Venetian and Roman paintings that the art dealer Gerrit van Uylenburgh wanted to sell for 30 & nbsp; 000 florins to the elective prince of Brandenburg Frederick William I. He traveled in 1672 to The Hague, where he examined the paintings together with the painter Hans Jordaens. He denied the authenticity of the paintings before a notary, declaring that the value of the paintings was at most one tenth of the price requested.

Last years and death

Lady with two gentlemen or Girl with a glass of wine, circa 1659-1660 (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick).

In his last years of life his economic conditions worsened, having to ask for credits. Because of the Franco-Dutch War started in 1672, he could not sell more paintings. According to a letter dated April 30, 1676, from Catharina Bolnes requesting the pardon of part of her debts, she commented that her husband had to sell paintings with which he traded during the war at a lower price of their value.

In 1675, Vermeer fell ill and died a few days later. On December 15, 1675 he was buried in the family sepulcher of the Oude Kerk (Old Church, in Spanish) in Delft. His wife had to give up her inheritance to cancel the debts and her assets went to the creditors.

More Facts about Johannes Vermeer

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