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Johann Vermeer

La lettura del bel libro di Tracy

Chevalier, La ragazza con
lorecchino di perle (Neri
Pozza, editore, Vicenza 2000)
mi ha fatto venir voglia di
cercare i quadri di Johann
Vermeer (Delft, 1632 - ivi,
Eccone alcuni, dopo due note

Note biografiche
Grande pittore olandese anche Jan Vermeer
(Delft, 1632 - ivi, 1675). A parte alcuni paesaggi,
dipinse interni di vita borghese, prediligendo le
scene domestiche pi comuni, i piccoli
avvenimenti della giornata di una donna. La sua
caratteristica quella di rendere la tranquillit
dell'atmosfera da cui circondato, con poche
figure, spesso una sola, intenta alla lettura o a
occupazioni casalinghe. Egli rappresenta con
precisione la realt. La tecnica molto raffinata:
colori inediti giocati sull'accostamento di toni
caldi e freddi, una materia ora traslucida ora
untuosa che rende l'impressione dell'oggetto, la
pennellata spesso in piccole gocce per
rendere la superficie e la riflessione di luce.
Caratteristica la fonte luminosa che vivifica gli
interni. Infatti nei suoi quadri c' qualcosa di
vibrante, che rende vivo l'ambiente pacato e
silenzioso ove vivono le figure (la luce che
penetra da una finestra, posta per lo pi a
sinistra o fuori dell'inquadratura. Una luce
morbida, resa con piccole pennellate

(Delft 1632 - 1675)

Figlio di un mercante d'arte, Vermeer si form a
contatto con le opere antiche e dipinse per pochi
intimi. Ritrasse soprattutto scene di vita
domestica, spesso le attivit quotidiane. La
composizione delle scene semplice: lo spazio
definito da pochi piani e da una luce intensa e
radente; le diverse zone di colore sono usate in
modo da contrapporre toni caldi a toni freddi. Il
risultato finale un'immagine che evoca il senso
del mistero e una sorta di attesa che ci trasmette
una straordinaria ricchezza emotiva. Dimenticato
per circa 200 anni, Vermeer fu riscoperto nella
seconda met del diciannovesimo secolo. Oggi
considerato uno dei pi grandi maestri della
pittura olandese.

[] These brothel scenes, or Bordeeltje,

were popular at the time as a response
to an increasingly prudish, puritan
ethos. The original derivation is a
depiction of the Prodigal Son, frittering
away his money on whores, with the
contrast being the mercy and
forgiveness of the loving father. The
fascinating theme of the brothel quickly
evolved to be an independent genre.
The theme is that the evils of money
and alcohol have combined. In addition
to the woman's bright yellow jacket, the
wine has brought color to the her
cheeks. She nestles contentedly into the
arm of the red-jacketed soldier who is
offering a coin, but also seems to be
ready to flip the coin or to hide it in his
hand. The woman, the soldier, and the
brilliant rug are center-stage, but also,
at the right, are two dark, ambiguous
figures, with the dark draped jacket
below. Lubricating the transaction is the
androgenous onlooker in black, the
The figure at the left has the selfconciousness of a self-portrait. If so, this
the only picture of Vermeer in existence.
This grinning figure is perhaps toasting
with us, ready to celebrate the fun.

La mezzana (1656)

In this quiet, reflective, inward-looking

painting, a table and curtain separate
us from the well-dressed young woman
reading a letter. The large green
curtain may be intended as part of the
scene, or it may be a trompe d'oeil to
look like the painting has a physical
curtain to cover it, as was popular in
Dutch households at the time.
She is enclosed also by the
horizontality of the curtain rail and the
deep shadow at the top of the picture.
This enclosure and separation provide
intimacy: she is alone in an unguarded
moment, unviolated by the intrusion of
the viewer.

Fanciulla che legge una

lettera presso la finestra

Giovane donna assopita


La stradina

La lattaia

A man swathed in darkness

holds a pitcher of wine, while
watching an elegantly dressed
woman drink. She is wearing a
silk dress with gold edging, and
her face is partially hidden by
her headscarf and by the glass
itself, almost like a mask. The
two have been playing music, a
theme often associated with
love. This is a subdued, careful
painting of elegant people in an
elegant room with a gold-framed
landscape on the wall. []
So it seems that a seduction is
taking place, with wine as the
lubricant. Could it be that the
man is Vermeer, at least
symbolically, and the woman is
Jannetje, wife of his neighbor?

La signora col bicchiere di vino (1658-60)

A shy, nervous young woman is welldressed in exquisitely rendered red

silk with gold brocade. She looks to
the viewer with a smiling, unsure
expression, while a smooth, confident
gentleman encourages her to drink.
The window shows the arms of
Jannetje Vogel, who married
Vermeer's neighbor, Moses Nederveen.
Surrounding the arms is the figure of
a woman holding a horse's bridle in
one hand, an image of temperance.
The window is identical to that in The
Glass of Wine, another exhortation of
The painting on the back wall is of a
dignified man in a lace collar,
presumably the master of the house,
looking down on his wife hesitantly
beginning an affair. A shodowy figure
seated at the back is ambiguous:
perhaps he is the match and the man
in the center is the matchmaker, or
perhaps he is a chaperone who has
abrogated his duty.

La coquette (1959-60)

Veduta di Delft (1660-61)

[] the momentary movement

is derived from an
interruption, as a man enfolds
the girl. He is ambiguous,
either teacher or lover, trying
to draw her attention to a
letter, yet she is looking at us,
not him, her expression
quizzical. In the foreground is
a chair with a comfortable
cushion, and we may decide to
sit on the chair or not.
While love is symbolized by
music, on the wall is a
painting of Cupid holding a
bow and a card [].
On the table, with the musical
instrument (a cittern), is a
pitcher and a glass of wine;
perhaps he has been drinking
the wine, or perhaps he is
trying to dissuade her from
music so that she can drink
with him.

La ragazza interrotta (1661)

This famous painting was executed by

Vermeer at the height of his powers. The
formal, almost abstract, composition is
presented as patterns of color and shape,
but at the same time the ambiguity of the
human relationship draws us in. The
perfectly rendered window provides a
frame at the left, and the spare
horizontality of the roof-beams frames the
picture at the top. []
The woman playing the clavecin has her
back to us, so that we see composition and
human relationship rather than her face.
But she is reflected in the mirror above her.
The real and reflected heads are not
consistent: in the mirror she seems to be
turning towards the man. It has been
suggested that the mirror shows part of
the artist's easel, drawing us into the
picture in a very explicit way. []
On the clavecin, there is an inscription,
Musica Letitiae Comes Medicina Dolorum,
[]. At lower right is a richly decorated
oriental carpet, anchoring the eye and
providing a separation between viewer and
subjects, on it is the familar, prominent
white pitcher, which may contain wine; are
we to conclude that the couple are about
to descend into sin, lubricated by demon

La lezione di musica (1662-65)

Ragazza che scrive


Donna con liuto


Donna in blu

Donna con collana di perle


La donna con la
brocca (1664-65)

Here is one of the most famous

Vermeers: a beautiful young woman,
sensual, expectant, emotionally
engaging []. The light falls from
above, shading the girl's eyes, so that
only her cheek and nose are
illuminated. This has the same effect as
a veil, increasing our curiosity by
Part of the appeal of the painting stems
from the bizarre color palette, with red
and green on the face, purple under
the red hat, turquoise in the eyes, and
yellow highlights on the folds of the
blue robe. This painting is on a wood
panel, making the painting smoother
and more lustrous than the absorptive
canvas of Vermeer's other paintings.

Ragazza con turbante rosso (1665)

Ragazza con
orecchino di perla

Donna con bilancia


Il quadro alla parete il

medesimo che in
Giovane signora alla
spinetta (vedi)

Il concerto (1665-66)

Larte della pittura (166667)

La padrona e la serva

Ritratto di
giovane signora

A dark, large soldier in a large

hat seems almost too large as
he faces the smiling, innocent
girl, who is bathed in light and
nervously holding the wineglass in front of her. Contrast
between the figures is
established by scale, color,
mood and attitude.
The figures are very close to
the picture plane, like a wideangle lens, emphasizing the
differences in size and power
between the figures. The
vanishing point is midway
between the two heads,
emphasizing their bond. This
picture may have been
painted with a Camera
Obscura, a newly invented
optical device for projecting a
scene onto a flat surface. []

Militare con fanciulla che sorride (1668)


Il geografo

La merlettaia

La lettera damore

Signora che scrive una

lettera in presenza della
domestica (1670)

La ragazza con la
chitarra (1672)

The most ambiguous and

fascinating aspect of this painting
is, however, the subject of the
prominent painting on the wall,
which is Dirck van Baburen's The
Procuress, depicting the point-ofsale transaction where a
prostitute is bought. Why should
a painting of sin be next to this
innocent-looking young woman
playing music?

Giovane signora alla spinetta (1672-73)


Le immagini sono tratte random,

prevalentemente da siti internet.
Le note sono di Roy Williams, 58-79 Caltech,
Pasadena, CA 91125, USA, 626
395 3670 e dalla sua Vermeer
Clickable Map. Visitatela, ci sono
molte pi informazioni di quante
io ne abbia riportate qui.