Jan Vermeer

Jan Vermeer

Style: Baroque

Lived: 1632 - 1675 (17th century)

Nationality: Netherlands


Johannes Vermeer (1632 - December 15, 1675) was a Dutch painter, who is also sometimes refered to as Vermeer of Delft or Johannes van der Meer. Alongside Rembrandt, Vermeer is the most famous painter of the so-called Dutch Golden Age, and his paintings are admired for their transparent colours, careful composition and brilliant use of light.


Little is known about the life of Vermeer. However, the few surviving historical documents testify that he was born in Delft and stayed there all his life. He married Catharina Bolenes in 1653. In that same year he joined the Saint Lucas Painters Guild. Later, in 1662 and 1669, he was chosen to preside over the guild.

Vermeer did earn a meagre income as an art dealer rather than through selling his paintings. Sometimes he even had to pay his debts to local food stores with a painting. Vermeer died very poor. His widow had to trade all paintings still in her possession to the city council in return for a small allowance (one source even says this was only one painting, also Vermeer's last work named Clio). He was buried in the Old Church (Oude Kerk) in Delft.

After his death Vermeer was soon forgotten. His paintings were sometimes sold bearing the name of another painter to raise their value. Only very recently has Vermeer been recognized as one of the greats: in 1866 art historian Théophile Thoré (who wrote under the pseudonym of W. Bürger) made a statement to this effect, attributing 76 paintings to Vermeer, a number that was soon lowered by others. At the beginning of the twentieth century rumours ran rampant that there were yet undiscovered Vermeer paintings.

Very few paintings of Vermeer are known today. Only 35 to 40 works that are attributed to him do exist (views on authenticity of some works differ).

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