Arts Everyday Living: Vermeer, Magician of Art–Transforming the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1669, oil on panel, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Title: Girl with the Red Hat

Artist: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)


Is it the magnificent hat you notice first? Fiery red in color, splendidly feathered? Perhaps next the velvety blue robe, its deep folds highlighted by yellow  brushstrokes, placed with perfection?  Or the contrasting white cravat, essentially at the center of the composition?

So does the figure of the GIRL WITH THE RED HAT  seem rather secondary in comparison, literally overshadowed by what the French would call her chapeau? However, like many of Vermeer’s models, she gradulally captivates the viewer.  In this case, is it her sense of expectancy, welcoming us into the space of the painting.  Evident in the eyes that somehow, in spite of the darkness, capture our attention. As if she already knows us, regardless of the gap in centuries? For is she greeting us with a familiar glance? Or then again, according to an opposite interpretation, is she actually a bit startled by our presence?

GIRL WITH THE RED HAT also appears as if she could speak at any moment, her full, rosy lips opening, perhaps ready to express a word of greeting.  Or is she instead questioning our sudden appearance?

Johannes or Jan Vermeer was the magician of artists, creating timeless interiors with the purest of light. A mere 34 or 35 paintings are known to exist, making each work as precious as the rarest jewel. He was born and spent his career in Delft, a leading arts center during the Golden Age of Dutch Art. Few facts are known about Vermeer’s life such as his education, patrons, identity of his subjects and his relationship with his artistic peers. He died prematurely, at the age of 43, in debt.





In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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