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The 8 Best Vermeer Paintings of All Time
Get inspired 27 Jun 2022

The 8 Best Vermeer Paintings of All Time

Vermeer’s paintings
Woman with a Water Jug, Johannes Vermeer, 1660–1662, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Johannes Vermeer, also known as Vermeer of Delft, is an essential painter of the Baroque style. Alongside Rembrandt and Frans Hals, he is one of the great names of the Dutch Golden Age. A master of genre scenes, Vermeer had a gift for creating extremely soft interior atmospheres. Between intimacy, poetry and mystery, discover the most beautiful of Vermeer’s paintings now!

1. The Art of Painting, an allegorical masterpiece

Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, 1666-1668, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Considered by some to be one of the most incredible Vermeer’s paintings, The Art of Painting fascinates. Also called The Allegory of Painting or The Studio, this work can be interpreted as the epitome of painting. Here we are allowed to have a glimpse inside this private world. The management of the brushstrokes, colors and composition makes this painting unique. A virtuoso technique that helped establish Vermeer’s worldwide reputation.

2. Girl with a Pearl Earring, one of the most famous Vermeer’s paintings

Vermeer’s paintings
Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665

Famous as it is intriguing, this portrait is part of a Flemish genre very common in the 17th century. It is a “tronie”, which means “face” in Dutch. In this type of painting, features and expressions are exaggerated to depict intense, even stereotypical characters. With her parted lips, milky complexion, and gentle gaze, Girl with a Pearl Earring is surprisingly captivating.

3. Woman with a Water Jug, pure delicacy

Johannes Vermeer, Woman with a Water Jug, 1660–1662, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This painting is one of a series by Vermeer from the 1660s. What is intriguing about this series is the gap between the artist’s life and his paintings. While he lived in a house full of his own children, his portraits depict only adults. Moreover, the atmospheres meticulously worked by Vermeer are of an Olympian calm. A serenity that we can imagine as being at odds with the reality of his daily life, to the point of considering painting as a real escape for the artist.

4. The Alley, one of the only Vermeer paintings with an exterior view

Vermeer’s paintings
Johannes Vermeer, The Alley, 1658

This painting by Johannes Vermeer stands out and intrigues us because it is one of the only paintings that depicts an exterior view. The frontal perspective makes this representation both realistic and poetic. Even today, the identification of the place remains a mystery. While some believe it to be an alley in Delft, others speculate that it is a completely imaginary place.

5. The Milkmaid, the most famous housemaid in the world

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, 1658-1661, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This painting is certainly one of the most famous of the artist and even of the whole history of art! The painter offers us here a scene of life whose pictorial technique is breathtaking. But The Milkmaid also stands out from Vermeer’s other paintings, because it represents a modest woman. The model, in the midst of cooking, shows great concentration which, combined with the peaceful atmosphere, inspires tranquility. Between still life and portrait, this emblematic work is a parenthesis of gentle simplicity.

6. Woman Holding a Balance, pregnant woman by Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer’s paintings
Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, 1665

While his wife Catharina bore him 15 children, Vermeer rarely represented maternity in his paintings. Woman Reading a Letter and Woman Holding a Balance are his only portraits of pregnant women. The incredible sweetness that emanates from this painting could – in addition to being aesthetically remarkable – have a personal and political explanation. Indeed, a close relative of Vermeer was a victim of domestic violence, despite her advanced state of pregnancy. It could be that Vermeer decided to honor pregnant women by painting these masterpieces.

7. Diana and Her Companions, one of Vermeer’s greatest paintings

Johannes Vermeer, Diana and Her Companions, 1655-1656

Considered one of Vermeer’s first great paintings, Diana and Her Companions depicts the goddess Diana in an atypical way. Indeed, the setting is atemporal and Diana and her nymphs wear modern clothes. This painting initiates one of Johannes Vermeer’s most recurrent themes: feminine reflection in a private setting.

8. The Wine Glass, the seductive parenthesis

Vermeer’s paintings
Johannes Vermeer, Le Verre de vin, between 1658 and 1662, Gemäldegalerie

This painting is a direct reference to De Hooch’s A Dutch Courtyard. However, Vermeer took the liberty of offering the models a much more comfortable setting than in the original work. Thanks to the presence of wine and music, the theme of seduction also seems obvious. And if this painting is a masterpiece, it also opens the way to a new maturity in Vermeer’s work.

Rarity and mystery in Vermeer’s paintings

In only 20 years and despite a mysterious biography of his life, Vermeer became one of the most renowned painters in the world. Having completed more than 45 paintings in this short time, they are now coveted for their beauty and their rarity. And for you, which of Vermeer’s paintings is your favorite?

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