Johannes Vermeer: Life and Artworks of Lately Popularized Artist

Jan Vermeer was one among skilled craftsman who was born in a middle-class family but gained popularity after two centuries of his works.

Johannes Vermeer

Talking about Dutch culture enthralls me with a creative spirit because of their rich painting style. If you check what the Netherlands gave to the world, the first thing will be cultural liberalism and tolerance. In the pages of history, the Golden Age Of Dutch painting is most proclaimed and acclaimed in the artist’s world of the 17th century. In the 1620s, Dutch paintings broke into covering the realistic portraits, still lives, and landscapes that exploded our brains to think whether they were painted or photographed in reality. In dedicating this article to one such Dutch artist whose name disappeared for nearly two centuries but whose work is now known as one of the greatest masterpieces of the Golden Age of Dutch Art, I describe his works. He is no other but my favorite Johannes Vermeer or you can call him Jan Vermeer. Tell me one thing folks! If you visited his virtual tour of paintings? If you have not, you are probably missing a lot. Don’t worry; I will take the in-charge of let you know about him and the exclusive Johannes Vermeer artworks here in this article. Let us start by taking a look at his early years.

An Account of the Artist’s Life.

Born on 31 October 1632, Jan Vermeer was the son of Digna Baltens and Reijnier Janszoon, a middle-class worker of silk. In the city of Delft, where art movements were prevalent: the economy was dependent on it, Reijnier began trading in paintings in around the 1625s. Jan Vermeer had an elder sister named Gertruy. When his father died, he inherited the family business of art.

ArtistJohannes Vermeer
Birth31 October, 1632
Death15 December, 1675
MediumOil on canvas

He married a Catholic woman, Catharina Bolenes (Bolnes), in April 1653, where his mother-in-law opposed the marriage. After he turned his religion to Catholic, she finally accepted. They eventually moved in with Catharina’s mother, who lived in a spacious house near a hidden Jesuit church at Oude Langendijk. During the remainder of his life, Vermeer lived in this house, producing paintings in the front room. The couple had 15 children, four of whom were buried but registered as “children of Johan Vermeer“.

The Procuress Johannes Vermeer
The Procuress by Johannes Vermeer, Believed to portray the artist on the Extreme Left of the canvas | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

Talking about his career, can you guess his art teacher? There was always a question about him among the art critics who taught Vermeer to paint this effectively? So there was some speculation that Carel Fabritius may be his teacher as known from the controversial texts in 1688, but there was no evidence to support the fact. Also, there was speculation that his father’s connection might have taught him the form. Though his style was famous in Utrecht Caravaggists works, his teacher is still a big question.

He was also a part of the Guild of Saint Luke, a trade association for painters. Records found he didn’t pay the admission fees because of the economic crisis caused by war and plague that caused him severe financial hardships. At first, he sold his paintings at exorbitant prices. Furthermore, he excelled in his craftsmanship, which earned him the title of guild head in 1662, 63, 70, and 71.

However, during the Franco-Dutch War in 1672, there were severe economic problems that shut down schools and local businesses for around five years. In 1675 Vermeer borrowed 1000 guilders in Amsterdam using his mother-in-law’s property as a surety. However, he died in the same year in December due to financial hardships. Though Johannes Vermeer artworks were skilled and mastered with perfection but he has produced less numbers and the war outraged the economy.

His wife described his death as a note,

“…during the ruinous war with France, he not only was unable to sell any of his art but also, to his great detriment, was left sitting with the paintings of other masters that he was dealing in. As a result and owing to the great burden of his children having no means of his own, he lapsed into such decay and decadence, which he had so taken to heart that, as if he had fallen into a frenzy, in a day and a half he went from being healthy to being dead.”

In his short but productive career, Jan Vermeer did not get recognization widely despite his excellent craftsmanship. The paintings you see here in this article are among his best works. There was a brief record of his life, which makes us still think about his life more. However, through Johannes Vermeer artworks, we can surely understand him more. So here I am, presenting to you the compositions that you were waiting for so long.

11 Famous Johannes Vermeer Artworks.

1. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.

The biblical painting by Jan Vermeer represents Jesus visiting his sisters Mary and Martha’s home. If you look closely at the face of Jesus, his eyes are wide and filled with sympathy towards others. His long brown hair and mastery of hands while having a conversation are other points to notice about him. While Mary keenly listens to his conversations, glancing at him through her pure love, Martha resumes to occupy herself with the household work. A specialty of Vermeer’s work is the use of lights on each of their faces. Besides, if you can see the enlightenment light surrounding Jesus’ head, you will be just attracted to the artwork. It is filled with love towards the siblings, the holy teachings, the mastery of light, and enriched positivity. The bright colors used in the composition perfectly enhance it, just like it seems Jesus is in front of us, speaking to us about his teachings on forgiveness.

It tells us about Jan Vermeer witnessing things, outlooking the positive side of the situation.

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary Johannes Vermeer
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

2. A Lady and the Two Gentlemen.

Among the figures in the Vermeer artworks are a lady holding a wine glass and two gentlemen. The lady is gracefully sitting while looking her face sideways and smiling. Her orange-white dress is just perfectly designed and tells about the fashion of the 17th century. Furthermore, her open and wide eyes tell about the truth of life. Moreover, the man bent over to her is probably encouraging her to sip wine, holding her hand. Another one who is simply dozing off due to extra consumption of wine is sitting at a distance from them. The rich colors of blue and orange take away my thoughts and encourage me to look into them. The lights on the face of the lady and the center table attribute to the positive side of one’s life. The hanging of a portrait of a man further intensifies the composition.

A Lady and the Two Gentlemen Johannes Vermeer
A Lady and the Two Gentlemen by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Obelisk Art History

3. A Maid Asleep.

Johannes Vermeer Vermeer is not an ordinary artist but one whose art speaks through. The composition with rich and impastoed pigments has a simple subject on which Jan Vermeer’s art lies, portraying the interior glimpse of the domestic lives of women. A lady is asleep maybe because of her tiring job in the household. The painting connects us to the most neglected work of the world, which is the duties of housekeeping, cooking, and other chores. The bright rugs, Delftware plate, fruit, a white pitcher, and a wine glass in the foreground further amplify the work and landscape of the house. He portrays the lady in her naturalistic yet prettiest form, where the door behind her is half-open. It can be also taken that maybe she dozed off while waiting for someone, and that’s why she kept the door open, and the extra chair also witnessed the same. The use of light in the composition also reveals his style of painting.

A Maid Asleep Vermeer
A Maid Asleep by Johannes Vermeer | Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

4. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

The masterpiece by Jan Vermeer portrays the girl who is reading a letter. The golden curly hair with a bun tied enrich the details of the composition. The foreground consists of a table with a rug, a delft plate with apples, and a large green deceptive form of curtains. The window throws light on her face while she reads the letter. There may be a story of positivity and love here. This letter is from a loved one of the girl, which she reads with sparkling eyes. Even the reflection of the girl’s face that is visible on the glass panel of the window is magnificent. Other than the fine details that the artist added, there is a combination of bright pigments, making it specular and beautiful. One thing I found in his masterwork is the original and natural look of things in the foreground and the fine works of the rugs in every piece.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window Johannes Vermeer
Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

5. Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Though Johannes’s subject is simple but the way he used to convey emotions through his artworks is complex and exciting. This girl’s face, with her head covered by a piece of cloth, wears a pearl earring. Her innocent and wide eyes, cherry red lips, and a slight shadow on her left cheek are mesmerizing. The rich pigments of the color blue make it further engrossing.

The painting by Jan Vermeer may convey a story of a lady who is going to marry wearing that expensive pearl. Her expressions tell us that she is confused and nervous about the newer part of her life. The painting displays the usage of simple colors that draws simplicity and a realistic experience to our vision.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

6. The Geographer.

The Vermeer paintings is one of the three artworks that Jan Vermeer signed. It shows a geographer in a long Japanese coat, holding dividers in his hands. He is bent toward, and his eyes are intense, which shows that he is thinking with curiosity about something. Unlike every other piece, the light on his blurry face shows the artist’s mastery of the craft. The presence of maps, charts, a globe, and books show his profession. The handcrafted chair, rugs on the table, and carved stool are the additions in his painting that made it look natural. The energy of the composition lies in the falling of light here at different places. The young man’s sharp features and curly hair mesmerize us, albeit of a simple subject as always.

The Geographer painting Jan Vermeer
The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

7. Woman Writing a Letter With Her Maid.

Jan Vermeer portrayed the art with realism filled with bright pigments. It displays a woman writing a letter maybe to someone close or her lover. In contrast, the woman who is her maid shows no interest in what she is writing. She looks outside as she gets bored with the whole situation. Her hands crossed show the feeling of self-containment, which also says she is least attached to anyone physiologically and emotionally.

The artwork consists of similar pieces in the foreground like the glowing colorful rug, a painting behind them, and the dismissal of light on their faces.

Throughout the painting, a dense form of emotions and sentiments are displayed. Besides expressing intentional love between the lovers, the letter also exhibits a hurriedness to reply to one another, contrasting with the maid’s posture, which conveys self-restraint and love. Furthermore, the geometry through tiles is also noteworthy.

Woman Writing a Letter with her maid by Johannes Vermeer
Woman Writing a Letter with her maid by Johannes Vermeer | Source: National Gallery of Ireland

8. Allegory of the Catholic Faith.

This painting by Johannes Vermeer displays different genres on the same canvas with bright pigments through realistic composition. A lady is wearing a blue and white colorful long dress, her hair is tied, her face is tilted upwards, and her eyes are wide open. She has her right hand on her heart with relief or an expression of sorrow. It looks like she is remembering the almighty. Her one leg is on the globe and the other one is on the floor. Besides, the table holds crucified Jesus, a book, and a golden chalice. In the foreground, a curtain with dark and bright colors, a snake squashed by a cornerstone, and a fallen apple make us think about the dilemma of the composition here. The painting on her back that displays the crucification of Jesus is also a question here. Can you guess the story or inspiration behind the artwork?

Wait, maybe I can help you figure out and convey the story.

Symbolically, the apple represents human sin, either deliberately or unintentionally, while Christ represents faith, crushing the snake or devil or curse through his love and power. The lady in her difficult times remembers the Almighty with a little worry. What she is unable to see is the invisible power of the Lord, who destroyed the dangers coming to her.

Allegory of the Catholic Faith Johannes Vermeer
Allegory of the Catholic Faith by Johannes Vermeer | Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

9. The Art of Painting.

Jan Vermeer effortlessly integrates the perfection of light, complex composition, and naturalistic scenery in this artwork. The woman acts like the model of the painter. She wears a blue dress with her eyes gazing down and a book in her hand. On her back, the wall displays a map of countries. Besides, the table carries some silky cloths on its shelf with shining colorful curtains covering the panorama. A black garment reveals the painter’s shirt underneath the cuts on the sleeves and back. Orange stockings and puffy shorts adorn his legs.

There is a rendering effect of light in the painting, filling it with energy and positivity. The artwork was in a special place in Vermeer’s heart, so he did not sell it even when he was in debt.

The map tells us about the history, probably about the ongoing war at that time, with the lady as the description of it through the poetry. The mastery of the colors and representation of his work lies in this composition.

The Art of Painting Jan Vermeer
The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

10. Mistress and Maid.

This composition of Jan Vermeer depicts an elegant mistress and her maid discussing a love letter they received. Throughout the scene, yellow dominates in the woman’s graceful fur-lined overcoat, and blue dominates in the maid’s apron and silk tablecloth. Adding pearls to her wardrobe, the beautiful mistress looks stunning. Her hair is nicely tied in a bun. She is probably writing a letter to her lover. Those days when the letter was so prevalent, it was a notable element in all of Jan’s works.

The conversation between the maid and mistress may be about the unknown letter they received. The dilemma about the letter is highlighted through the expression anatomy of the subjects.

Mistress and Maid by Jan Vermeer
Mistress and Maid by Johannes Vermeer | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

11. Girl With a Red Hat.

The painting by Jan Vermeer portrays a woman with a red fur cap and a pearl earring. The blue dress shows a gleaming pigment with a white contrast. Furthermore, the foreground includes a painting with green colors dominating.

The expression on her face conveys innocence and confusion as she tries to answer the question. Throughout theVermeer paintings, he displayed domestic scenes of a woman with rich colors. The complexities of Jan Vermeer work lie in focussing on one subject with enriched details and genres.

Girl with the Red Hat Johannes Vermeer
Girl with the Red Hat by Johannes Vermeer | Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA


Jan Vermeer is undoubtedly one of the finest craftsmen of the Dutch Golden Age of Art. Through his limited artworks, he spoke many emotions and words. Though he focuses primarily on the woman and domestic scenes, he somehow manages to capture some beauty and depth in the most neglected worlds. Vermeer paintings have simple subjects, but the mastery of his complexities in the foreground and usage of lights are the essential takeaways.

Tell us which Johannes Vermeer artworks inspired you most and why. Let us know in the comments, and I will see you another time with another great artist.

Frequently Asked Questions.

How much is the Girl With a Pearl Earring worth?

The Girl With a Pearl Earring was auctioned in 1881 to Arnouldus Andries des Tombe for 2 Guilders and 30 cents. As the buyer had no heirs, the painting was donated to the Mauritshuis in 1902 and has since been never sold, making it worthless.

Who owns Girl With a Pearl Earring?

One of the crucial artworks of the Dutch Golden Age, the Girl With a Pearl Earring, was owned by Arnouldus Andreis des Tombe from 1881 to 1902 until it was donated to Mauritshuis, where it now permanently resides.

Who rediscovered Johannes Vermeer and his artwork?

Johannes Vermeer went unknown for two centuries for his lack of mention in the famous 17th-century dutch painting sourcebook Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists. However, Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Theophile Thore-Burger published an essay with 66 pictures of the artist, taking the credit to rediscover the artist and his works in the 19th century.

Who was Vermeer’s Wife?

Catharina Bolnes was the wife of Johannes Vermeer. She was the daughter of Maria Thins, belonging to a Catholic family and Reynier Bolnes, a prosperous brickmaker.

Did Vermeer paint his wife?

It is not clear whether or not Johannes Vermeer painted Catherina. However, art historians addressed that half of her models were pregnant, and Catherina had 15 children, 4 of whom died prematurely. Hence, one can predict that few of his artworks portrayed her, especially the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

Where did Vermeer live?

Johannes Vermeer lived in the city of Delft. In 1631, he lived in an inn called, The Flying Fox with his family. However, after his marriage to Catherina, he moved to his mother in law house in Oude Langendijk, next to a hidden Jesuit Church.

Was Vermeer in love with Griet?

Greit was a maid and a source of inspiration for several Vermeer paintings. Stories say that she was in love with the artist; however, as Vermeer was married to Catherina, he never contested a physical intimacy and showcased his romanticism toward Greit through his artworks.

Who was the Girl With the Pearl Earring?

The girl in the artwork is the 16-year-old Dutch maid Griet who adored Johannes Vermeer. The painting is also popularly called North of the Mona Lisa.


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