I saved the most beautiful one for last: The Lady seated at a virginal.
|Johannes Vermeer – Lady seated at the virginal|
Female keyboard players were a popular subject in 17th-century Dutch art. Music making was often associated with love and at times with amorous seduction. For example, in verses by Jacob Westerbaen we read: “learn to play the lute, the clavichord. The strings have the power to caress the heart.” The virginals, however, had highly civilized connotations since it was habitually played by a woman in the context of family or musical gatherings, thus, being used most often by artists as a symbol of harmony and concord.
The unattended viol da gamba in the foreground further strengthens the association with harmony. The woman, like the male musician in Jacob Cats’ well-known emblem “Quid Non Sentit Amor” (see detail above), plays her instrument while a second lies unused. The emblem’s text explains that the resonance of one lute echoes onto the other just as two hearts can exist in harmony even if they are separated. 17th Century eyes would have recognized the symbolism in the painting.
Music in Vermeers paintings
The fact that Vermeer portrayed so many musical themes is not surprising in itself, “at least ten percent of all 17th-century paintings, music makes its appearance in one way or another. In genre pieces, in which category Vermeer’s work is generally placed, the percentage is even higher. For example, about 20 per cent of Frans van Mieris’ works, 25 per cent of Pieter de Hoogh’s and almost half of Jacob Ochtervelt’s deal in some way with music.”
Dutch painting experts generally believe that underneath Vermeer’s seemingly straightforward portrayals of young people engaged in a pleasurable pastime lies another level of meaning which can be understood only with a study of symbolism in the 17th Century.
Last painting in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2016 Vermeer
Although my visitor numbers have reached an all time low in these Vermeer series and dropped by some 80%, taking part of the challenge is a very nice experience, and it gave me an opportunity to explore the work and life of Johannes Vermeer. To those of you, who read all or some of it, thank you for your time and I hope you’ve learned a little bit more about Johannes Vermeer, Han van Meegeren’s most appreciated artist.