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04-Jul-2020 15:06

How he managed to finance his generous use of ultramarine - even after the disastrous year of 1672 - remains something of a mystery.One answer is that he was supplied with materials by a collector, possibly Pieter van Ruijven, whose son-in-law Jacob Dissius held a major auction of 21 Vermeers in Amsterdam in 1696.It now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.The picture is believed to have been Vermeer's favourite, which is rather surprising.

The map covering the rear wall of the studio contains a tear symbolizing the division between the Dutch Republic to the north and the Habsburg-ruled Flemish provinces to the south (note: as was the custom, the top of the map points to the West).Adorning the gold chandelier is a double headed eagle, the official symbol of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, former rulers of Holland.Thus experts believe that the chandelier represents Catholicism, while the lack of candles is a reference to its suppression by the dominant Protestant faith.True, it remains a typical illustration of his Dutch Baroque painting, but it hardly ranks as one of his masterpieces - a view supported by the fact that for many years it was thought to have been painted by Vermeer's Delft contemporary Pieter de Hooch (1629-84).

This canvas is one of the two allegorical-literary works by the artist - the other being Allegory of Faith (c.1673, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) - which have come down to us, and it would seem, given Vermeer's working methods, that it was the genre he was least suited to.Colour played an important part in all Vermeer's paintings, and he had a particular weakness for the cool blue hue of natural ultramarine, made from the mineral Lapis Lazuli.



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