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

A Lady Drinking and a Gentleman

c. 1658
Oil on canvas, 66,3 x 76,5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Signature: Not signed.

Provenance: The painting first appeared in the sale Jan van Loon, Delft, 1736. It was subsequently. bought by John Hope, Amsterdam, in 1774. His sons fled to England when the French invaded Holland in 1794, and the painting seems to have remained the property of the family until the whole collection was sold in 1898 to the art dealers P. and D. Colnaghi and A. Wertheimer. It was acquired by the museum in 1901.

The leaden window to the left was entirely overpainted at the time of the purchase by the museum and replaced by a curtain and a view upon a landscape through an open window. When the painting became part of the museum's collections, it was cleaned and the overpaints removed, restoring the original composition. This was the time when genre painting flourished, and artists like Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Frans van Mieris, and Gerard Ter Borch, to name only a few, placed their figures into a light-filled room or courtyard, showing them either socializing or preoccupied with domestic chores. Vermeer's works set the tone for representations of the upper bourgeoisie, a social level more refined than that depicted by his contemporaries. This type of setting required finer and smoother pictorial rendition than, for instance, the Milkmaid.

Consequently, Vermeer adapted his brushwork to the new needs, and more than equaled a Frans van Mieris, for instance, in the delicacy and finesse of the execution. It is proposed by some critics that Vermeer was the originator of the genre. It was he who influenced Pieter de Hooch, not the other way around, as was previously assumed. His elegance, sophistication, and majestic stillness assert the primacy of his conceptions over the more pedestrian de Hooch, who attained brief artistic heights only under Vermeer's impetus during his Delft sojourn in the late 1650s.

Like A Lady and Two Gentlemen, this seduction scene contains an open window which features the warning figure of Temperance.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.