Monday, October 6, 2014

Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep

Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep, 1657

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was one of the great Dutch Masters, especially known for his domestic interiors.  Vermeer had a relatively small output, and many of his paintings are quite famous, but this painting (also known as A Girl Asleep or A Woman Asleep) is a less well known work.  Vermeer is best known for his miraculous use of light and his realistic depictions of natural light.  Therefore I find the extent of shadow in this piece fascinating.  Certainly the maid is lighted compared to the wall above her, but she remains fairly darkened, especially when compared with some of Vermeer's other works.  To me this technique adds to the sedate nature of the scene.  The objects on the table allude to a social (or romantic) interaction that has recently concluded, leaving the subject in a thoroughly solitary state.  The level of detail given to every element of this painting is astounding; the woman's garment is incredibly textured, the tablecloth is meticulously patterned, and the modeling of the chair looks remarkably real.  That open door lends an air of slight mystery and suggests the world outside this room while keeping us firmly grounded in the scene before us.  Finally, the subject's face is beautifully shaped and shaded.  This paining is a masterpiece.

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