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Vermeer: non solo perle

Vermeer: not just pearls


From the life of Jan Vermeer not much is known. He was born, lived and died in Delft, Holland, from 1632 to 1675. His father was a silk weaver and also an art dealer and in 1642 he joined the business as an innkeeper, buying one in the market square.

Jan converts
The "artistic" activity of his father infected Jan, who wanted to take the path of painting.
Jan inherited everything and married Catherine Bolnes. In addition to the difference in wealth (his wife was in a superior position compared to Jan) they were of different religions: he was Protestant and she was Catholic.


It seems that Jan Vermeer converted to Catholicism. Some time after the wedding, the Vermeer family moved to Catherine's mother who generously used a lot of her money to help Jan break into the world of art.

In spite of everything Jan always lived tormented by economic problems, perhaps also because he gave birth to 14 children.

These meager news tell little of the character of Jan Vermeer that we can only guess from his works.

He often painted for himself and did not sell many paintings, but they remained as an inheritance to his wife who used them, together with Jan's house, to settle the accumulated debts.

The Dutch "Mona Lisa"

The most famous painting is "Girl with a turban", which later became "Girl with a pearl earring". A kind of "Mona Lisa" of the Nordic countries.

An evocative painting, which however does not fall within its usual subjects.

Vermeer's subjects were portraits of the middle class intent on their own affairs: the lace maker, music lessons, pearl weigher, etc. Quiet moments of domestic life.

Slow and fussy
He was very meticulous and precise. It took him a great deal of time to make a painting. He too, like most Flemish painters, used the optical camera to accurately obtain proportions, physiognomies and cuts of light.


The application of colors began, precise and methodical, tone on tone to acquire extraordinary intensity. Some parts, even, are voluntarily a little blurry to consolidate the realism of the image.

Rare and expensive colors

The colors he prepared (at that time there were no ready-made tubes) were the result of a very long preparation and of the highest quality ingredients, very expensive, which Jan did not give up. Its unmistakable blue derives from the processing of lapis lazuli (the same blue that Giotto used for his sky), rare and very expensive.

Infinite points

Finally, he patiently finished the painting with "dots" (nothing to do with the pointillism of the nineteenth century), to render the atmosphere and texture of the objects. Tiny and almost invisible points which are its inimitable feature.


A pity that, as his wife wrote: "...due to the large expenses due to his children and for which he no longer had personal means, he was so afflicted and weakened that he lost his health and died within a day and a half".

Who knows what we might have seen if life, with him, had been more generous.

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