The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance. Aristotle
Johannes Vermeer is one of my favourite artists and when I saw this painting at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin a few years ago, I was mesmerised by the artist’s depiction of the wine glass – you can actually see the woman’s features through it; and the way he shows the light coming through the window, highlighting the creases on the woman’s satin bodice and the folds on the man’s cape. The artist’s positioning of the chair, completes a perfect, triangular setting for the picture’s narrative. The two-tone Delft floor tiles, the exquisite tapestry table cover and stained glass window – all indicators of the comfortable middle-class home of an expensively dressed young woman entertaining an urbane admirer, possibly a merchant with the Dutch East India Company.
NOW, in this time of stay-at-home-social-distancing, my mood is different from what it was on holiday in Berlin, and Vermeer’s picture assumes a different “inner significance”. I am immediately struck by two things: firstly, it is so much an “Interior” painting; and secondly, time is suspended, he is waiting for her to finish the wine, but there she sits, forever sipping! The room is small, the table is small, the woman is hemmed in by the man on her right, the chair to her left and the floor tiles beneath her. This woman’s world is very small. My world feels very small right now and time has slowed to a trickle.
NOW (in this time of stay-at-home-social-distancing), many of the world’s greatest art institutions are offering online, virtual tours of their collections. Would anyone like to ‘Art-Connect‘ with me and track some of Vermeer’s paintings? We could share them via a WhatsApp group, with or without comments.