(b. 1632, Delft, d. 1675, Delft)
Saint Praxidis1655 (?)
Oil on canvas, 102 x 83 cm
Signature: Signed(?) twice: MEER 1655 lower left. MEER N... .R. Lower right.
Provenance: Of all the recently proposed attributions destined to enlarge the body of Vermeer's so-called youthful period, this one is the most questionable. It has a checkered history. Discovered in 1943 in a small New York auction room by a couple of Belgian refugees, the late Jacob Reder and his wife, it was for a long time turned down by all Vermeer specialists. Jacob Reder, who dabbled in the Old Masters trade long before coming to America, was well known as an eccentric with a powerful imagination. After his death, the painting was acquired from his widow by a New York (now Los Angeles) dealer. From there, it passed into the collection of the current owner.
The painting is probably an Italianizing copy after a minor Florentine artist. Some connoisseurs believe that this copy was executed by an Italian in his customary technique. Others are inclined to admit that the painting could have been done by a northern artist, in close imitation of the Florentine original. The latter exists: it is by Felice Ficherelli (1605-69?) and belongs to a private collector in Ferrara. In any case, it is a mediocre painting. The main difference from the Florentine original is the cross in the hands of the saint, which was probably added at the request of a convent or church that had commissioned the work.
An attribution to Vermeer finds its sole basis in the two signatures, because neither style nor pictorial quality are anywhere close to the artistic level of Vermeer. It is extremely important to remember in this context, that false Vermeer signatures occur often and were probably affixed sometime during the eighteenth or nineteenth century. If such an inscription is two hundred years old, as compared with the age of roughly three hundred years for the painting, the contemporaneity becomes almost impossible to prove either way by so-called scientific methods.
An attribution to Michael Sweerts could possibly be considered.