Monday, January 20, 2014

A Very Small Vermeer Painting

Johannes Vermeer's Young Woman Seated at a Virginals, currently exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through March 2004, is 9.9 by 7.9 inches. It would be understandable to think of the painting as a sketch due to the small size. It is not a sketch, it is a finished painting. Viewing is affected by the size of the work, the rooms low light level and the frame casting a shadow on the edge of the painting. 

The most interesting qualities are the superb mastery of the light and shadow rendered on the cloth and furniture. There is a delicate texture of the entire wall. The limited color palette cultivates the unification of a domestic scene. This is less a portrait of an individual and more a statement of a cultural time and societal lifestyle.

What I think of when I picture Vermeer's art is the description of domestic spaces, checked floor patterns, finely detailed objects, a rich color palette and a wonderful representation of light conditions. He is a master painter. Young Woman Seated at a Virginals does not included all the qualities one sees in a larger work, but there's a rich visual experience and is worth viewing because of the fact that so few of his paintings exist.

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