The Concert

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

From the collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, missing since 1990

In a pristine domestic parlor, two women and a man concentrate on making music.

Some scholars have been tempted to interpret Dutch musical scenes like this as moral warnings against seduction and illicit sex.

Indeed, hanging on the wall at the right is a painting of a procuress by Dirck van Baburen. The Procuress was in fact owned by Vermeer's family.

Dirck van Baburen’s painting The Procuress is now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Moreover, the figures in the room are intently preoccupied with their music: they do not look at each other, and seem unaware they are being observed. Their intensity does not invite interruption.

Turned enigmatically away from our gaze, the seated man wears an elaborate sash that indicates his membership in a civic militia.

The woman playing the clavichord wears pearls and a ribbon in her hair.

The woman on the right holds a sheet of music and raises her hand to beat time for her companions.

Lying on the large table at left is a lute...

...while a viola da gamba lies on the floor.

Are these instruments soon to be taken up by the trio, or are others to join the group? Vermeer crafts rather deliberately a sense of mystery: he leaves this study of social interaction open to our own interpretations.

The Concert by Jan VermeerIsabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Credits: Story

This exhibition is part of the Google Vermeer Project.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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