Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675): Officer and Laughing Girl

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675): Officer and Laughing Girl

2/15/2021, 4:26:16 PM
Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675): Officer and Laughing Girl, ca. 1657, Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 46 cm, The Frick Collection, New York In what may be one of the first works of his mature style, Vermeer transforms the theme of a girl entertaining her suitor, already popular in Dutch art, into a dazzling study bathed by the traditional golden light used by Vermeer. The composition portraits an official of the Dutch army with his red uniform and a big black hat in the foreground who is talking with a young woman in the background. The dark foil of the officer’s silhouette dramatizes both the illusion of depth and the brilliant play of light over the woman and the furnishings of the chamber. The rosy woman, holding a glass of wine, is looking to the officer and laughing at some witticism. They are both seated on two chairs that constantly appear in Vermeer’s compositions as well as the map placed on the far wall. In this painting, Vermeer has provided us with a rather shallow pictorial space in which the rear wall, rendered more active by the placement of the map, seems to project the figures towards the viewer. Characteristically for Vermeer, many items both a compositional and a symbolic role. The map and the open window, for instance, are allusions to the outside world, hinting perhaps at the girl's exposure to adult influences - requiring extra care when alcohol is involved.

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