Jan Vermeer Van Delft, known to the world simply as Vermeer, was reportedly well known in his day as one of the most remarkable of the seventeenth century Dutch artists. Yet, after his death he driftedinto obscurity and only came to prominence almost three centuries later in the nineteenth century. Having only produced forty paintings, Vermeer’s works are filled with an enigmatic originality, balance and ambiguity that is surely heightened by the sparseness of detail surrounding his life and works. Now recognized as a master of the Dutch Golden Age, the startling presence of his body of work is arguably heightened by the fact that almost all of his works were painted in two small rooms in his house in Delft, featuring the same furniture, decorations, and sitters.
The Astronomer, painted around 1668, is one of his most-well known canvases, a figurative reproduction of a scientist surrounded by the tools of his craft. Vermeer had a keen eye for the magic of the everyday, filling his characters with a powerful sense of introspection and often depicting them as more interested in their own inner world than the objects that surround them. Using light to profound psychological effect, Vermeer’s The Astronomer forges a unique balance between the interior architecture of the space and the passing of a moment in time. Placed, like many of Vermeer’s characters, beside a window on the left, the astronomer appears to have been caught in a moment of revelation, perhaps the manifestation of his years of learning. Representing solitary lives as the sites of profound humility and loneliness, Vermeer’s figurative reproduction of the astronomer is a masterpiece in which the potential for enigmatic genius is depicted as a product of everyday toil.
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