Officer and Laughing Girl

Johannes VermeerAround 1657

The Frick Collection

The Frick Collection
New York City, United States

In Mr. Frick's day, Rembrandt was the most highly regarded Dutch Old Master. In our time, he has been supplanted by Vermeer. In place of Rembrandt's splendor and unrestrained emotions, Vermeer offers images of order and quiet harmony. This small picture, painted about 1657, presents the familiar components of a classic Vermeer: a man and a woman observed sharing a moment alone, in a comfortable interior flooded with golden light, and cool air. Whatever the nature of the human exchange depicted here, it soon seems obvious that the real subject of the picture is light—the intangible light shown bursting in through the open window, breaking up reflections in the leaded panes, muffled through the curtains, caressing the soft plaster wall, lingering sporadically on glowing fabrics, sparkling glass, or the soft expanse of the vellum map (which depicts Holland). But the light soon recedes into dark corners and accents the young woman's beguiling face and soft kerchief differently. In this subtle fashion, Vermeer makes light a metaphor for time and reminds us ever so gently of its inevitable consequences. Fortunate are we to have been permitted to eavesdrop on this golden moment. Frick purchased two other paintings by Vermeer—Girl Interrupted at Her Music, painted about 1658-59, and Mistress and Maid, painted about 1666-67; all three works by Vermeer can be seen in the Frick's galleries.

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  • Title: Officer and Laughing Girl
  • Creator: Johannes Vermeer
  • Date Created: Around 1657
  • Physical Dimensions: w46 x h50.5 cm
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: See more on The Frick Collection website
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Provenance: Vermeer sale, May 16, 1696, Amsterdam, Lot 11, sold for 44 1/2 florins. Léopold Double, bought, apparently as a de Hoogh, for 235 guineas in an unidentified London sale. Double sale, May 30, 1881, Paris, Lot 16, sold for 8,800 francs to Prince Demidoff di San Donato, Villa di Pratolino, near Florence. Mrs. Samuel Joseph, London. Knoedler. Frick, 1911. Source: Paintings in The Frick Collection: American, British, Dutch, Flemish and German. Volume I. New York: The Frick Collection, 1968.
  • Painter: Johannes Vermeer
  • Original Title: De Soldaat en het Lachende Meisje