VERMEER, Johannes
(b. 1632, Delft, d. 1675, Delft)

The Procuress

Oil on canvas, 143 x 130 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Signature: Signed(?) and dated(?) lower right 1656.

Provenance: Acquired for the collection of the elector of Saxony in 1741 from the Wallenstein collection. First mentioned in the Dresden catalog of 1765 as by Jean van der Meer, without specifying which Van der Meer. In the catalog of 1782 as by Van der Meer of Haarlem. In the catalog of 1826 as by Jacques van der Meer of Utrecht. First attributed to Jan van der Meer of Delft by Smith, and by Thoré in 1860. Both the signature and the date are old, but not necessarily contemporaneous.

There is no relationship between this painting and other authentic works by the master, neither in the conception nor the execution. One has attempted to establish a connection between this work and the one by Dirck van Baburen from 1622, now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. However, aside from the subject matter, the Dresden painting has nothing in common with the one in Boston. The latter seems to have been part of Vermeer van Delft's stock in trade and appears as such in two of his paintings. At one time, it must have been the property of his mother-in-law.

The fact that Vermeer van Delft was a dealer and thus owned a number of works by other masters does not necessarily imply that he took them as models for his own productions; even if he used some of them as background decorations in his paintings.

However, this painting is usually considered as a point of departure for an appraisal of Vermeer's achievement. There is very little indication of the interior and more action in it than there will be in the later paintings. The erotic subject, size and decorative splendour are all closely related to the Utrecht Caravaggisti painted a generation earlier. The chiaroscuro effect and the warm colour harmony of reds and yellows also indicate a connection with works painted in the early fifties by Rembrandt and his followers; perhaps Maes, who had settled in nearby Dordrecht by 1653, was the conduit.