Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632–1675)
Oil on canvas, ca. 1656–57, 34 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (87.6 x 76.5 cm)
Accession # 14.40.611
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
"This canvas of 1656 or 1657 is the earliest work by Vermeer to depict his usual subject of one or two figures in a domestic interior. The wine glass and unsettled objects on the table suggest that some social occasion has passed. To the upper left, the corner of a painting of Cupid (known from other pictures by Vermeer) includes a fallen mask which refers to the woman's unguarded expression. Radiographs reveal that Vermeer originally included a man in the background and a dog in the doorway; these motifs were replaced by the distant mirror and the chair with a pillow to the lower right. In changing the composition Vermeer made its amorous theme less obvious, just as his remarkable passages of observation obscure his borrowing of ideas from other genre painters, such as Nicolaes Maes."
photos ©Joan Ann Lansberry, May, 2009