Ever Noticed All the Maps in Vermeer’s Paintings? Here’s What They Mean – artnet News

The subsequent is an excerpt from the forthcoming e-book Vermeer’s Maps by Rozemarijn Landsman (The Frick Assortment, October 1, 2022).


No completely different Seventeenth-century Dutch painter devoted as a lot consideration to the rfinishering of cartworkographic works as Vermeer. In six of his work, an identifiable map adorns the partitions of a home space. Vermeer adopted the maps’ content materials and proportions scrupulously, depicting them with such care thOn their geography and cartworkouches, even the compass roses, vessels, and sea creatures, are recognizable. Some lettering is legible, and Inside the case of Youthful Woman with a Lute, the clear strains following the durations Inside the maps’ surrounding textual content materials match what All of us know from the few surviving copies of the Map of Europe. To breed these options so exactly and translate the works on paper into paint, Vermeer would have Desipurple to consider the maps very shutly. However why? What was their attraction for the artworkist and his viewers?

Deciphering The signalificance of the maps in Vermeer’s artwork is difficult as there are few clues past What’s launched by the work themselves. Maps, furtherextra, are complicated objects, open to interpretation. Think about Vermeer’s depiction of the map in Officer and Laughing Woman. To viewers of his time, this map might have been acknowledged as A mirropurple picture of The recognition of cartworkographic work as inside ornament and of The fact that, startworking Inside the 1620s, influential painters like Willem Buytewech had included wall maps into their style work. As Walter Liedtke illustrated, Vermeer’s complace with the flirtatious couple matches squarely within a physique Of labor by a quantity of of his contemporaries: the silhouetted decide, For event, advocates familiarity with The Procuress by Gerard van Honthorst. Likewise, the setting—the nook of a room with a window to the left—was a frequently employed scheme, as in, for event, the equally dated Two Troopers Having fun with Playing cards by Pieter de Hooch. The association of the decides, As properly as to the broad-brimmed hat, recall Interior of a Tailor’s Store by Quiringh van Brekelenkam. Vermeer operated within a community of Dutch painters who imitated and emulated Every completely different’s complaces. From This angle, by the late 1650s a map on the wall of an inside scene was nofactor new; for some viewers, Vermeer’s skillfully painted maps might have been ssuggest that.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman with a Lute (ca. 1662-63). © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Neverthemuch less, the extraordinary precision and attentiveness with which Vermeer depicted wall maps and the relative frequency with which he painted them signal one factor extra. Already Inside the Nineteenth century, Théophile Thoré-Bürger famous that Vermeer might have included the maps in his work not merely As a Outcome of ofir ornamental worth but because of the artworkist’s supposed fascination with Asia. In the mid-Twentieth century, Lawrence Gowing hypothemeasurementd a relationship between the map and the officer Inside the Frick painting, likening it to the recurring motif of An picture-within-a-picture. Neverthemuch less it was not till James Welu’s groundbreaking research Inside the Nineteen Seventies that critical consideration was given to the exact cartworkographic objects as They seem in Vermeer’s work. Welu recognized each of the maps, matching them to the few extant situations, and reconsidepurple the iconography of the work By which They seem. The wall maps have since performed A process in pretty A pair of moralizing and politicizing interpretations of Vermeer’s work, linking his protagonists to themes Of affection, wrestle, and nationwide id. However, regardmuch less of Welu’s identifications of the maps, the artwork-historic dialogue of them has typically been superficial. Many an interpretation Is ppurpleicated on widespread ideas of Seventeenth-century Dutch wall maps, pretty than each map’s partworkicularity or the subtleties in Vermeer’s rfinishition of them.

The maps’ traits would have been extra ssuggest recognizable to Vermeer and his contemporaries than They’re to us right now. The ubiquity of wall maps Inside the Netherlands by the 1650s Did not detract from the Number of the course ofes of their making, their features, their connotations, and their meant viewerss. Viewers of Vermeer’s artwork, partworkicularly People who owned or have been involved with maps, would have been properly awrestlee of such distinctions and, in all probability, In a place to recognizing exactly which maps the artworkist depicted. However to what diploma can we set up how a lot these factors performed into the artworkist’s choice to reference the maps? As a Outcome of the following dialogue demonstrates, he Ought to have studied The factors terribly shutly, which advocates that he had appreciable entry to them. Moreover, he probably loved prolonged entry to Van Berckenrode’s map by way of the household of his spouse, Catharina Bolnes. What, then, are we to make of the interpretive worth of the wall maps in Vermeer’s artwork? Was the artworkist motivated by private or political causes? Was he drawn to their supplies properties or intrigued by their fusion of artwork and science? The household’s ties to Van Berckenrode’s Map of Holland and West-Friesland provides A mannequin new mild By which To understand Vermeer’s artwork. Although the question of The signalificance of the wall maps reprimarys hugely unresolved, amhugeuity is inherent to the work of the Sphinx of Delft and arguably lfinishs his work their finishuring, extremely effective presence.

Balthasar Florisz van Berckenrode and Willem Jansz Blaeu, Map of Holland and West-Friesland (ca. 1621). Westfries Museum, Hoorn.

The placeas each map rfinishition bears the hallmarks of the artworkist’s evolving type and his attribute finesse, the variations in his method and complaceal choices level out that his curiosity Inside The factors’ supplies and which means was somefactor but static. Vermeer dated Solely a few of his works, but his stylistic and thematic choices evince clear groupings within his oeuvre. Subsequently, It Might be claimed thOn The primary time Vermeer painted a wall map was in Officer and Laughing Woman (ca. 1657).

The three rfinisherings of the Van Berckenrode–Blaeu map, partworkicularly, are revealing, As a Outcome of of its recurrence Inside the artworkist’s oeuvre And since of comparatively rich documentation Regarding the making of the map. In Officer and Laughing Woman, Vermeer explopurple the transformation of a monumental, printed cartworkographic work on paper Proper into a painted counterhalf. Vermeer’s emphasis of sure options might have corresponded to the colouring of the map’s prototype, and The general whitish background is advocateive of a paper base. Beyond that, however, the artworkist’s painterly impression deby way oftes in important methods from what We uncover out about map colouring On the time. Eparticularly notable are The sensible and considerably randomly dispersed highmilds, catching the viewer’s eyes as they punctuate the ochres and blue. These are typical of Vermeer’s painting method, not of mapmaking.

The blue look of the land Inside the map in Officer and Laughing Woman has typically been famous, As a Outcome of it seems to contradict the cartworkographic apply of using blue To level water. Land was usually outlined with inexperienced, yellow, or pink. Did Vermeer deliberately deby way ofte from the colouring of The distinctive map, as Welu and completely differents have questioned, or did A few of his pigments merely fade over time? If Vermeer utilized a clear yellow lake—a notoriously fugitive pigment—over the blue, that space would have initially seemed inexperienced. Neverthemuch less, a lot of the maze of shiny blue artworkeries does, Truly, correspond to the places of rivers and watermethods on the exact map. Rather than a extremely unprobably inversion of colour undertaken by the artworkist, The factor’s blue look seems to have been The outcomes of an emphasis on the presence of water Inside the province, partworkicularly in Delfland, both by Vermeer or by the map’s colourist—an fascinating and revealing selection, given the historic previous and position of this map in relation to the district’s water administration.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Studying a Letter (ca. 1663). Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Strikingly completely different is The appears of The identical map in Woman in Blue Studying a Letter. As Vermeer’s type superior, so, too, did his remedy of the wall maps. Right here, the map seems signalificantly huger than that in Officer and Laughing Woman—its huge measurement supposedly prohibiting its being depicted in its entirety. Moreover, while the settings of The two work are comparable, the execution Of each map differs. The state of affairs of highmilds is extra deliberate Inside the later rfinishition, and there are fewer of them. The place they do seem, They’re much less shiny And have A bent to blfinish with the underlying paint layers. The maps in each work adhere to the map’s geography, Neverthemuch less the later rfinishition seems extra cartworkographic. In Officer and Laughing Woman, the map’s physicality is level outd by peeling paper alongside The underside textual content material; Inside the later map, Vermeer focused on The outcomes Of sunshine on the crinkled and varnished paper floor. Similarly, and Based mostly on the evolution of his type, he substituted The sensible colours of The quicklyer rfinishition with a muted palette of grays and browns.

Vermeer’s disparate pigment choices for his first two rfinisherings of Van Berckenrode’s map—and, later nonethemuch less, its third look in The Love Letter, where It is seen in semidarkness at A sharp angle Inside the foreground—enhance questions Regarding The distinctive look of the cartworkographic prototype and, consequently, the extent to which Vermeer’s choices affected its depiction. The consistency with which he emphasised sure partworks of the map in all three variations—watermethods and sure borders, As properly as to polders—advocates that he based them on The identical event, following its colouring shutly, Even when taking some liberties with partworkicular pigments. It Ought to have been for inventive causes thOn the artworkist modified his palette. Nofactor sure May be sassist Regarding the colouring of Vermeer’s prototype, for little Is understood Regarding the colouring apply in Willem Blaeu’s shop Through the 1620s. Moreover, of The two extant situations of this partworkicular map, one is uncolopurple, and The completely different, which is in Hoorn, is in such deteriorated situation That the majority of its pigmentation has pale or discolopurple. The whitish delineation of Rijnland, however, Collectively with traces of blue alongside the river Maas shut to Rotterdam and the brown delineations of spaces partworkicularly Inside the south of Holland, advocate that this work was uniquely Much extra colourful than It is right now. Still, its unique look Does not Appear to have matched Vermeer’s rfinishitions of the map.

The Other methods By which Vermeer rfinishepurple the wall maps May even be apparent when evaluating his two depictions of maps of the Seventeen Provinces, one by Hondius in Woman with a Water Pitcher, The completely different by Visscher in The Art of Painting. The earlier, A comparatively modest map, is recognizable but lacks the precision and delicacy of Vermeer’s completely different map rfinisherings. The latter, Neverthemuch less, represents the climax of his virtuosity and curiosity Inside The matter. Visscher’s huge and prestigious wall map is seen in its full glory, and its suppliesity is conveyed with extra conviction than anyplace else: Several Kinds of vertical creases May be discerned, some indicating a fold, completely differents advocateive of air bubbles trapped between paper and canvas lining; the waviness of its floor conveys A supplies That is each stiff And versatile; and the folds converge towrestleds center backside, as if, ssuggest out of sight, a weight is pulling the map downwrestled; the opaque purple and blue of the cartworkouches simulates colouring with gouaches; The biggest and left edges of the map are, apparently, delineated by gold leaf separating the geographical content material from the metropolisscapes. Vermeer’s choice To mix in pricey ultramarine blue Inside the colder, shadowy partworks of his work is noticeable Inside the collection of metropolisscapes on The biggest, each of which is painted with such precision That they are identifiable. The restrained dispersal of specular highmilds, subtly various in measurement and colour, not only enlivens The picture, advocateing the mirrorion Of sunshine As a Outcome of it bounces off the map’s flooring, but seems To Wind up to be An factor of its geographical content material. On this allegory, the wall map should carry out An important process, as each Vermeer’s dealing with and placeing of it suggest.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman with a Water Pitcher (ca. 1662). © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Useful resource, NY.

The variations in colour, measurement, and remedy of the wall maps mirror Vermeer’s general stylistic enhancement. The map rfinisherings additionally exemplify how the artworkist balanced the detailed illustration of objects with a sensitivity to how they enhanced the stylistic traits of his work, typically by modulating their colouring and stypicallying their contours. For event, Visscher’s decide of a fisherman, accompanying the cartworkouche Inside The underside right nook of the map in The Art of Painting, is clearly delineated, but his options are blurpurple to such A diploma That He is only identifiable when As compapurple with the decide on The distinctive map. Similarly, the maps’ remedy reveals that Vermeer reconsidepurple complaceal choices all by way of the painting course of, rearranging or eliminating partworks of his works. As Arthur Wheelock first famous, the maps in each Woman in Blue Studying a Letter and Woman with a Water Pitcher have been replaceed at a later stage. The Map of Holland and West-Friesland Inside the Rijksmuseum painting was transferd barely upwrestled and to the left. In the Metropolitan Museum work, the Map of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands was shifted pretty a bit to The biggest. A particular destiny awaited the wall map that Vermeer initially cas quickly asived for Woman with a Pearl Necklace. The placeas the Berlin painting now seems with no map, neutron autoradiography reveals thOn there had as quickly as been An in depth rfinishering of a map of the Seventeen Provinces on the rear wall. Vermeer painted it out utterly—a distinctive transfer on his half, though not unwidespread, as the current uncovery of a monumental tapestry beneath the greater paint layers of Mistress and Massist confirms.

We will only speculate Regarding The tactic Vermeer employed to rfinisher huge wall maps at a signalificantly smaller scale. Did he use a grid or a pantograph, as Wheelock proposes? Or mightbe an optical instrument? An optical assist Similar to a lens or digital camera obscura might assist To elucidate sure elements of Vermeer’s painting method: his highmilds, resembling what Is understood in optics as circles of confusion or blur circles; his attentiveness to the conduct Of sunshine; his apparent familiarity with modern colour concept; and the geometry that underlies his complaces. A corollary of this dialogue is the artworkist’s familiarity with not only wall maps but globes, sea chartworks, and measuring mannequins. Vermeer’s apparent curiosity in cartworkography is suitable with an curiosity in optical mannequins. Know-how Similar to microscopes, telescopes, pantographs, and the digital camera obscura gained momentum Throughout the mid-Seventeenth century. In Delft, Vermeer matupurple in a local climate notably open to the fusion of artwork and technology. The metropolis was house to an lively circle of scientific practitioners, together with instrument-makers, pure philosophers, and painters. The painters Carel Fabritius and Leonaert Bramer—each of whom might have had a formative influence on Vermeer’s enhancement—have been masters at perspectival enhancement, as have been such Delft-based architectural painters as Gerard Houckgeest and Emanuel de Witte. Throughout Vermeer’s lively years as a painter, the fields of The humanities and sciences have been inseparable.

The placeas some maps, partworkicularly the one in The Art of Painting, Acquired satisfaction of place, the sacrifice of the map in Woman with a Pearl Necklace alerts thOn the artworkist Did not deem all cartworkographic objects indispensable. They served each complaceal and iconographic finishs, and one could outweigh The completely different. By shuffling the maps round and manipulating their remedy, colour, and measurement, Vermeer additionally shaped the iconography of his work. For event, his placement of Blaeu’s Map of Europe so thOn the Netherlands is at its center could be interpreted as a Contact upon the self-proclaimed supremacy of the Dutch in Europe and the world. Similarly, the replaceing of the map in Woman with a Water Pitcher—a map that was Associated to the wrestle Ensuing in the formation of the Dutch Republic—insinuates that its cropping alongside the frontier between the Southern and Northern Netherlands was purposeful.

Excerpt from Vermeer’s Maps by Rozemarijn Landsman. Revealed by The Frick Assortment and DelMonico Books, D.A.P., 2022.

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