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Not very much is known about the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer Van Delft, also known as Johannes Vermeer, even though his Baroque masterpieces are recognized worldwide. Born in a town called Delft during the Dutch Golden Age, a location known for its merchants and the various branches of canals. Vermeer’s birthdate is not certain, but he was baptized in October 1632. This period was turbulent and enriching at the same time, as there was a significant expansion in the art market because of the growing trade with the East Indies – on the other hand, there was an ongoing feud between the Protestants and the Catholic church. Vermeer was able to take this turbulent reality and put it on hold as he portrayed peaceful scenes of the everyday life in his art.
Different from most Baroque painters of this period, Vermeer almost abolished the narrative from his work. His central theme involved calm interior scenes, mostly of middle-class women in leisure or realizing chores and portraying an idealized every-day life of the Dutch middle-class. Even though his work differed from other artists of the time, Vermeer gave great importance to the contrast between light and dark – one of the main characteristics of the Baroque period. The artist’s paintings are rich in detail, small in dimension, and he concluded very few during his lifetime, despite that he dedicated his life to art. Historians still don’t know where Vermeer went to school, or who taught him how to paint, but it is known that he used camera obscura as a support for his technique. This instrument was used by many painters of the time and allowed the artist to visualize and easily draw out the scene in which he is observing. This mechanism would later serve as a base for early photography.
Vermeer and his family were an ordinary middle-class family but lived in the central part of Delft, a wealthy region. His father, Reijnier Janszoon, owned an Inn and began an art dealership on the side, which Vermeer eventually took over after his death in 1652. The next year, at the age of 21, the Baroque painter proposed to Catharina Bolenes, a Catholic girl whose mother persuaded Vermeer into converting to their faith. This was a complicated course of action because the rising of the Protestant church forced Catholics to hide their faith and join together in clandestine churches. The painting Allegory of the Faith (1670-1672) is a rare example of Vermeer’s work in which he uses symbolism, possibly concluded for a Catholic patron.
Some of Vermeer’s most celebrated oil paintings include The Milkmaid (1658), The Lacemaker (1669-1670), and Girl With the Pearl Earring (1665), in which a romance novel was written based on the mysterious female figure, and eventually a movie as well. After a collapse in the art market, Vermeer got ill possibly due to stress because of his financial instability and passed away shortly after, in December 1675.