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Johannes Vermeer's "Woman Holding A Balance"
August 17, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Johannes Vermeer's "Woman Holding A Balance"

Vermeer's visual music is utterly mysterious. He wasn't only abstract on the large scale of composition, negative shape and depth. When you look at the details, you see a system of coherent microforms in every representation of small pattern and texture, whether he's doing the faux-marble finish of a virginal case or resolving the optical glitter of a gold frame into tiny lozenges of paint. You're meant to enjoy both the illusion and the means by which it's brought about. Supremely conscious of his language, he puts all the machinery in the open--like Velazquez, but on a tiny scale. And then, suddenly, he pulls you inside, through the looking glass, and you are left in awe at the intensity of this seemingly quiet vision, its power to enclose you in its fictions. - Robert Hughes


Bequeathed by the estate of Peter Widener to the National Gallery of Art in 1942, the painting is on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts through September 2.
posted by Egg Shen (15 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just started watching the video, but it's in frustratingly low resolution! If anyone can find another copy (I've just searched a bit and failed), that would be wonderful.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is such an intriguing painting and, until now, I've never understood why. Thank you for a truly delightful post.
posted by speug at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Vermeer really does it.
posted by OmieWise at 2:37 PM on August 17, 2012


Eh, he was no Thomas Kinka-

*struck by lightning, falls dead*
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 2:48 PM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


OK I LOVE LOVE LOVE that annotated painting on the essential Vermeer website. They have it for a bunch of his paintings too.
posted by carsonb at 2:48 PM on August 17, 2012


Gorgeous post on a magical and mesmerizing master artist. Thanks!
posted by bearwife at 3:03 PM on August 17, 2012


It never occurred to me that the vanishing point due to perspective of linear objects could be used by the artist to direct the viewer's eye to one particular area, in this case the women's pinky. I can't wait to check this out in paintings by other artists.
posted by digsrus at 3:24 PM on August 17, 2012


ARGH, 240p resolution. It's like the painting is inside your neighbor's house, but you can kind of see it through the window, and OK there's a hedge in the way but it's mostly transparent, and you're looking at it through a hole in the fence on your side and kind of squinting. Also, the sun went down about half an hour ago. So frustrating!

Here's a nice high-res version of the picture for you to look at while listening to the commentary. It's not quite as good as having a higher-resolution video, but it helps! Also it's worth it because it's good commentary.
posted by Scientist at 3:28 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm going to see Woman Holding a Balance at the DIA this weekend. Nice timing!
posted by axiom at 3:51 PM on August 17, 2012


None of the art experts seem to notice that the woman is pregnant... or am I the only one that sees that?

The title seems far more fitting in that light.
posted by rattleandhum at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2012


rattleandhum: None of the art experts seem to notice that the woman is pregnant... or am I the only one that sees that?

It may also be a clothing style. There's a similar belly in the Arnolfini wedding portrait by van Eyck, which is admittedly from 200 years earlier.
posted by Decimask at 5:44 PM on August 17, 2012


Thanks for the link, Scientist. One of my major pet peeves is when people do something like this where the art is precisely the purpose of the video, and the compress it all to hell and make the video pretty much entirely worthless.
posted by chimaera at 6:15 PM on August 17, 2012


I love this. Thank you.
posted by Cocodrillo at 2:42 AM on August 18, 2012


Yeah, not pregnant, it's just period clothing.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 AM on August 18, 2012


Nice. I learned something and I will never look at that painting the same way again. Bathed in light is such a wonderful phrase, isn't it? If I lived in a place of darkness I would hang that picture and look at it every day as a psychic balm.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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