A young woman is standing by a table and looking into a mirror to arrange her pearl necklace. Light floods into the room through the leaded window. The yellow of the curtain and the furtrimmed jacket, and also the bare, white wall—a masterpiece of pure painting in the fine nuances of its colouring— create an intense sense of colour that is additionally enhanced by the dark, blueblack foreground. Vermeer is one of the most famous Dutch artists, despite the fact that his oeuvre consists of only about thirty-five paintings. He used perspective as an important compositional and expressive device. Here the vanishing-point is just above the table-top, and thus below the subject's eye-level. This creates a kind of worm's-eye view that helps to monumentalize the figure and the objects. Vermeer achieves the effect of depth by allowing the edge of the picture to cut through the chair, thus also increasing the sense of intimacy. Close-up views like this of people going about their daily lives are a favourite subject for Vermeer. The bare wall becomes a field of tension that mediates between the woman and the mirror and makes her look more intense. This motif in Dutch painting can be traced back as far as Hieronymus Bosch. Mirrors were considered a traditional symbol of pride, and invoked the pettiness and transience of worldly things. The pearls are a costly possession that can also be associated with vanity.


  • Title: Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace
  • Creator: Jan Vermeer van Delft
  • Date Created: around 1662
  • Physical Dimensions: h56.1 x w47.1cm
  • Type: Picture
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Canvas
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Inv. No.: 912B
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-017018
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Claudia Banz
  • Copyright Image: Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie / Image by Google
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: Jan Vermeer van Delft, or simply Vermeer, was a Dutch genre painter in the Baroque. Although he achieved only moderate success in his lifetime, today he is renowned for his masterly use and treatment of light in his paintings and is acclaimed as one of the most popular genre painters. His works are characterized by bright colours and pigments, with a particular favouring of cornflower blue and yellow. The settings for his images are mostly domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. It is speculated that he used a camera obscura to achieve precise positioning and this view seems to be supported by certain effects of light and perspective in his paintings, possibly evident in some reflective surfaces. Whether the theory is proven or not, his compositions often have an underlying geometric quality to them. 'The Kitchen Maid' (1658) is one of his most recognizable works.
  • Artist Place of Death: Delft, Netherlands
  • Artist Place of Birth: Delft, Netherlands
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1632 - 1675
  • Acquired: 1874 Purchase with the collection of the banker B. Suermondt Aachen

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