The Concert (About 1665) by Jan VermeerIsabella Stewart Gardner Museum
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.
This exhibition is part of the Google Vermeer Project.