Vermeer's Women Secrets and Silence Marjorie E. Wieseman, Wayne E. Franits, H.Perry Chapman

Publication date:
14 Oct 2011
224 pages: 256 x 192 x 22mm
60 colour illustrations

Vermeer's WomenCentring on the extraordinary "Lacemaker" from the Musee du Louvre, this beautiful book investigates the subtle and enigmatic paintings by Johannes Vermeer that celebrate the intimacy of the Dutch household. Moments frozen in paint that reveal young women sewing, reading or playing musical instruments, captured in Vermeer's uniquely luminous style, recreate a silent and often mysterious domestic realm, closed to the outside world, and inhabited almost exclusively by women and children.

Three internationally recognized experts in the field explain why women engaged in mundane domestic tasks, or in pleasurable pastimes such as music making, writing letters, or adjusting their toilette, comprise some of the most popular Dutch paintings of the seventeenth century. Among the most intriguing of these compositions are those that consciously avoid any engagement with the viewer. Rather than acknowledging our presence, figures avert their gazes or turn their backs upon us; they stare moodily into space or focus intently on the activities at hand. In viewing these paintings, we have the impression that we have stumbled upon a private world kept hidden from casual regard.

The ravishingly beautiful paintings of Vermeer are perhaps the most poetic evocations of this secretive world, but other Dutch painters sought to imbue simple domestic scenes with an air of silent mystery, and the book features also works by some of the most important masters of seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting, among them Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Nicolaes Maes, and Jan Steen.

More about this title

This catalogue accompanies the exhibition Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence (Wed 5 October 2011 to Sun 15 January 2012) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Marjorie E. Wieseman is curator of Dutch paintings 1600-1800 at the National Gallery, London. Wayne E. Franits is professor and chair of the Department of Fine Arts, Syracuse University. H. Perry Chapman is professor of art history at the University of Delaware.

"A valuable addition to the subject and one that attempts to address the intangible poetic character of Vermeer’s work as well as the hard facts surrounding its creation."–Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Apollo Magazine

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