“Woman Holding a Balance” by Johannes Vermeer

The nationalgalleryofart.gov website features an artist by the name of Johannes Vermeer. Johannes Vermeer’s “Woman Holding a Balance” exhibit consists of that single art piece, which was created in 1664 with oil on canvas. This realistic piece of art shows a woman holding a balance, seemingly lost in her thoughts. In the background is a painting of “The Last Judgment”. Vermeer made it hard to perceive what the woman may be balancing, whether it is the gold chains and the strings of pearls that are lying on the table in front of her, or if it’s her thoughts that she is trying to balance out.

That idea is up to the audience to decipher and debate.

Looking at the basic characteristics determines the artist’s style. Vermeer distinctly places background lines that fade into the vanishing which happens to be the woman’s finger, which helps in balancing the painting. In another attempt to balance the painting, Vermeer placed the balance point precisely in the middle of the painting.

He also makes the woman a positive shape, meaning she is at the for-front of the painting, while the work of art and jewelry are perceived as negative shapes, meaning they are in the background. Vermeer also uses light to enhance this painting. The light seems to aggrandize the woman, making her the focal point of this work. He uses different types of paints to create wool like texture of the woman’s orange dress.

He understood the concepts of different colors; for example, using the lighter color orange dress under the dark blue shawl, gave him a chance to lighten the painting.

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The size of the painting behind the woman suggests that the woman is small, actually making everything in the work smaller than it. Implied motion is shown in the painting also, by the woman holding the balance, in the process of waiting for it to reach equality. By combining these characteristics, one can determine the style Johannes Vermeer uses in this painting. Realism is the style of this work. Because everything in this painting could have really happened in his time of the 17th century, concludes the fact that the style is realism.

In this work of art, I see a pregnant woman holding a balance contemplating something. I can be certain she is holding a balance, but it is what she is balancing could be up for debate. I think she is balancing her thoughts about the future of being a new mom vs. just a wife, or maybe the thought her religion and what is to come of it. The painting of “The Last Judgment” inquires this thought process. These symbols that Vermeer uses serve to support the message being conceived as the balancing of life-what religion holds for her, and what the real world holds for her.

Vermeer’s biography explains that he grew up, settled, and died in Delft. He was raised as a Protestant, but before marrying he converted to Catholicism. In the 1600’s religion was a big part of life, which supports the logic about the symbolism, and their meaning of the painting. His culture is relayed in the painting, by the clothing the woman is wearing, and the artifact she is holding. His style seemed to be realistic historical or realistic religious. This fact is also supports the idea of this painting being about religion.

The art of the 17th century was “Baroque” which communicated religious themes. The Catholic Church was a big influence at this time, and seemed to encourage art relating to religion. I found that minute details in a painting can help one understand it better. The biography of the artist can help a lot also. When looking at a piece of art , one has to literally pick it apart, and then look at it all together because the smallest thing could change the meaning being portrayed. The most important information I embarked on was everyone has a different opinion of what a painting is implying, and no one is wrong.

Works Cited

  1. Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, National Gallery of Art, Widener Collection

Cite this page

“Woman Holding a Balance” by Johannes Vermeer. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/johannes-vermeers-woman-holding-a-balance-essay

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