The Allegory of Faith

(Allegorie op het geloof)
c. 1670–1674
Oil on canvas
114.3 x 88.9 cm. (45 x 35 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
acc. no. 32.100.18
there are 13 hotspots in the image below
Allegory of Faith, Johannes Vermeer

In order to appreciate the full rich meaning of the Allegory of Faith, one must acknowledge the community of believers at the Delft Papists' Corner. Vermeer's painting of faith, the real presence of Christ on the altar, and the penitent saint Mary Magdalene, met the needs of the Catholic community in a private devotional setting. Vermeer's work is a finely painted masterpiece that ties Vermeer to his community, family, and home. In the domestic sanctuary depicted in Vermeer's Allegory of Faith, the New Testament of Christ is renewed in the Holy Sacrament of the altar. The open curtain reveals the altar on which the historical Crucifixion depicted in the painting on the back wall is perpetually renewed in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The figure of Faith, Mary Magdalene, personifies the enduring belief in the miracle of the altar, the real presence of Christ's body and Blood.

Valerie Lind Hedquist. "The Real Presence of Christ and the Penitent Mary Magdalen in the 'Allegory of Faith'" by Johannes Vermeer.b Art History 23 (September 2000)

No signature appears on this work.

Albert Blankert, Vermeer: 1632–1675, 1975

c. 1671–1674
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Vermeer: The Complete Works, New York, 1997

c. 1670–1672
Walter Liedtke, Vermeer: The Complete Paintings,

c. 1672–1674
Wayne Franits, Vermeer, 2015

The support is a fine, plain-weave linen with a thread count of 14.5 x 12 cm², and has been wax/resin lined. The original tacking edges are present.

The light gray-brown ground contains chalk, lead white and umber.

Underdrawing lines, which appear to be in black chalk, are visible between the floor tiles and the line separating the ceiling from the wall.

The paint has been thinly and smoothly applied, though some impasto in the curtain and in the blue areas is apparent. Areas of the curtain were painted wet-in-wet as were some of the flesh tones. The vanishing point of the painting is visible as a small depression in the paint layer.

* Johannes Vermeer (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art and Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis - Washington and The Hague, 1995, edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.)


Johannes Vermeer's Allegory of Fiath with frame

  • Herman Stoffels van Swoll, Amsterdam (before 1698);
  • Van Swoll sale, Amsterdam, 22 April, 1699, no. 25;
  • sale, Amsterdam 13 July, 1718, no. 8;
  • sale, Amsterdam, 19 April, 1735, no. 11;
  • [David Ietswaart, until 1749];
  • Ietswaart sale, Amsterdam, 22 April, 1749, no. 152 (to Ravensberg);
  • private collection, Austria (1824);
  • Dimitri Shchukin, Moscow (1899, probably as by Eglon van der Neer);
  • [Wächtler, Berlin, 1899, as by Eglon van der Neer, sold to Bredius];
  • Abraham Bredius, The Hague (1899–1928, as by Vermeer, on loan to the Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1899–1923, The Hague, on loan to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1923–1928, sold to Kleinberger);
  • [Kleinberger, Paris, 1928, sold to Friedsam];
  • Michael Friedsam, New York (1928-d.1931);
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (acc. no. 32.100.18).
  • New York November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933
    The Michael Friedsam Collection
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    no catalogue
  • Delft May 17–August 12, 1952
    Prisma der bijbelse kunst
    Stedelijk Museum 'Het Prinsehof'
    216–217, no. 324 and ill.
  • Dallas October 10–30, 1953
    Trompe l'Oeil: Paintings that Fool the Eye by Masters from Vermeer to Dali
    Dallas Museum of Art
  • Washington D.C November 12, 1995–11 February, 1996
    Johannes Vermeer
    National Gallery of Art
    190–195, no. 20 and ill.
  • The Hague March 1–June 2, 1996
    Johannes Vermeer
    190–195, no. 20 and ill.
  • New York March 8–May 27, 2001
    Vermeer and the Delft School
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    no. 77
  • London June 20–September 16, 2001
    Vermeer and the Delft School
    National Gallery
    no. 77.
  • New York September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008
    The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    no catalogue
  • New York September 9–November 29, 2009
    Vermeer's Masterpiece 'The Milkmaid'
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    no. 10 and ill.
  • Rome 27 September, 2012–20 January, 2013
    Vermeer: Il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese
    Scuderie del Quirinale
    218, no. 50 and ill.
  • Budapest 31 October, 2014–15 February, 2015
    Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age
    Szépművészeti Múzeum
  • Paris February 22–May 22, 2017
    Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivaly
    Musée du Louvre
Johannes Vermeer's Allegory of Faith in scale
vermeer's life

Vermeer's mother is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, February 13.

Geertruijt Reynier Vermeer, Vermeer's sister, is buried at the beginning of May in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.

Vermeer inherits Mechelen from his mother, July 13. He rents it to a shoemaker caller Van Ackerdyck.

Vermeer is appointed for a second time headmen of the Guild of Saint Luke. He continues to paint in an "abstract" mode paying greater attention to pattern and the compositional structure of his works. Scholars have asserted that Vermeer may have been following the popular French mode of painting.

Delft pop. 15,000
The Hague pop. 6,000
Amsterdam pop. 219,000

dutch painting
european painting & architecture

Louis Le Vau, Fr. architect, d. (b. 1612)

Landscape architect André Lenôtre lays out the Champs-Elysées at Paris.


Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme includes a ballet with music by court composer Jean Baptiste Lully, 38, who has come to France from his native Florence and changed his name from Giovanni Battista Lulli. The ballet is so popular that four performances are requested in the space of 8 days.


Feb 10, William Congreve, English writer (Old Bachelor, Way of the World), is born.

John Ray prints a book of aphorisms such as: "Blood is thicker than water..." and "Haste makes waste."

science & philosophy

Italian scientist Giovanni Borelli attempts to use artificial wings to flying.

London clockmaker William Clement improves the accuracy of clocks by inventing anchor-shaped gadgets (escapements) that control the escape of a clock's driving force.

Parts of Baruch de Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus are published anonymously. Spinoza shows that the Bible, if properly understood, gives no support to the intolerance of religious authorities and their interference in civil and political affairs. The book creates a furor. It will provoke widespread denunciations as it goes through five editions in the next 5 years, and Spinoza moves to The Hague to gain the protection of influential friends. Now 37, he suffers from tuberculosis after years of inhaling glass dust produced by his lens-making.


Cardinal Emilio Altieri becomes Pope Clement X.

May 2, The Hudson Bay Co. is chartered by England's King Charles II to exploit the resources of the Hudson Bay area.

Oct 13, Virginia passes a law that blacks arriving in the colonies as Christians cannot be used as slaves.

The Dutch merchant marine has become larger than that of England, France, Spain and Portugal combined.

Minute hands first appear on watches.

Cafe Procope, the first cafe in Paris, begins serving ice cream.

France's Louis XIV founds Les Invalides at Paris to house up to 7,000 disabled soldiers.

vermeer's life In July Vermeer appears before the notary Nicolaes van Assendelft to acknowledge that he had received an inheritance of 148 guilders from his sister's estate.
dutch painting Adriaen van Ostade paints Travelers Resting.
european painting & architecture

Lionel Bruant: Hôtel des Invalides, Paris.

Christopher Wren: The Monument to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666


Feb 19, Charles-Hubert Gervais, composer, is born.

Dec 1, Francesco Stradivari, Italian violin maker and son of Antonius, is born.

Paris Opera opens with Robert Cambert's opera Pomone.

The French Académie de Royale Musique opens March 3 in the Salle du Jeu de Paume de la Bouteille. Jean Baptiste Lully will take over the Paris Opéra beginning next year and run it until 1687, rebuilding the house after fires that will destroy it in 1678 and 1681


Apr 6, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, French playwright, poet (Sacred Odes & Songs), is born.

Molière writes his farce Les Fourberies de Scapin (The Wiles of Scapin or Scapin the Cheat).

science & philosophy

In Germany Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz devised a mechanical calculator to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Astronomer Jean Picard visits the observatory of the late Tycho Brache on Hven Island, Sweden, to determine its exact location in order that observations there can be compared with precision to those made elsewhere. He returns to Paris with copies of Brahe's work and will use them to help him obtain an accurate measurement of the length of a degree of a meridian (longitude line) for use in computing the size of the Earth.

history c. 1671 first printed reference to an alphabet rhyme, a rhyme composed to help children learn their letters.

Apr 22, King Charles II sits in on English parliament.

Colonel Thomas Blood, Irish adventurer, steals the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
vermeer's life

Vermeer leases Mechelen to an apothecary for six years.

In May, Vermeer travels with two other headmen of the Saint Luke guild of Delft to The Hague in order to appraise a collection of disputed Italian paintings. Since one of the members of the expedition, Johannes Jordaens had spent many yeas in Italy, and Vermeer probably never left the Netherlands, it is likely that he was chosen for his importance as the headmaster of the guild. They testify before a notary that the works are "great pieces of rubbish and bad paintings."

Vermeer's earnings from his paintings after the French invaded the Netherlands of this year was probably considerably lower that those of the 1660s. His family was also very large by Dutch standards where only two or three children were expected. His economic problems may have been worsened because of low rate of production and restricted clientele and consequentially high prices of his paintings.

The refined sense of balance in Vermeer's compositions of the 1660s have given way to a new dynamic direction in the early 1670s. In The Guitar Player, Vermeer rejected balance in favor of a highly asymmetric compositions. The figure of the young girl seems to literally burst off the canvas. The music of the guitar, much bolder than that of the lute, had become popular in these years.

dutch painting
european painting & architecture Christopher Wren: St. Stephen's, Walbrook, London

Apr 6, Andre Ardinal Destouches, composer, is born.

First public concert at Whitefriars, London, given by violinist John Banister.

The baroque guitar begins to become popular in Holland. A fine example can be seen in Vermeer's Guitar Player. The lute, by this time, had begun to take on associations with an idealized past.

The Académie Royale de Danse is founded by Louis XIV in 1661 and amalgamated with the Paris Opéra becoming the Paris Opéra Ballet.

literature William Temple: Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
science & philosophy Flexible hose for use in fighting fires, is constructed by Jan van der Heyde and his son.

Feb 8, Isaac Newton reads his 1st optics paper before Royal Society in London.

Christian Huygens of Holland discoveres white polar caps on Mars.

Apr 29, King Louis XIV of France invaded the Netherlands. The beginning of economic decline in the Dutch Republic and the art market collapses

Jun 9, Peter I (d.1725), "The Great," was born. He grew to be almost 7 feet tall and was the Russian Czar from 1682 to 1725 and modernized Russia with sweeping reforms. He moves the Russian capital to the new city he built, St. Petersburg.

Jun 15, The Sluices are opened in Holland to save Amsterdam from the French.

Jul 4, States of Holland declares "Eternal Edict" void.

The Royal African Co. is granted a charter to expand the slave trade and its stockholders included philosopher John Locke. The operation will supply English sugar colonies with 3,000 slaves annually.

Peter Stuyvesant dies on his farm in NY. In 1959 Henry H. Kessler and Eugene Rachlis authored Peter Stuyvesant and his New York. In 1970 Adele de Leeuw authors Peter Stuyvesant.

Political lynching of the statesman Johan and Cornelis de Witt by Orange supporters in the Hague.

Netherlands's third war with England and starts an economic decline in Holland. The art market collapses.

The Dutch organize a system of relief for the poor, who had been provided for up to now by prosperous merchants. With Dutch trade declining and the country at war, the merchants can no longer afford to be so generous.

vermeer's life

June 27, another child of Vermeer is buried in the family grave in the Oude Kerk.

Vermeer rents family inn Mechelen that he had rented to his namesake an apothecary, for six years at 180 guilders a year, which was 10 guilders less that what was obtained from the shoemaker.

July 21, Vermeer sells two bonds totaling 800 guilders, one of which, worth 500 guilders, is in the name of Magdalena Pieters, daughters of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, from whom Vermeer had barrowed money in 1657.

dutch painting

Willem van de Velde paints Three Ships in a Gale.

Adriaen van Ostade paints The Violin Player.

Mar 28, Adam Pijnacker, Dutch landscape painter, etcher, is buried.

european painting & architecture

Salvator Rosa, Spanish painter, dies.

Christopher Wren is knighted.

music Buxtehude begins at Lubeck his famous Abendmusiken concerts.

Lully: Cadmus et Hermoine, opera, first given in Paris.
literature Feb 17, Molière, French author Tartuffe, Le Malade Imaginaire, dies.
science & philosophy

Dec 28, Joan Blaeu, Dutch cartographer, who published Atlas Major, dies.

Leibniz conceives a calculator that uses Pascal's adding machine as its basis but that can also multiply and divide. He finally builds the device some 20 years later.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek has by this time developed simple, single-lens microscopes with magnification up to 275 times (a device with a biconvex lens he grinds himself) and begins to send the English Royal Society letters on his discoveries.


Willem III of Orange saves Amsterdam and the province of Holland from France's Louis XIV by opening the sluice gates and flooding the country, an operation directed by mathematician and Amsterdam burgomaster Johan van Waveren Hudde, now 45 (see Leyden, 1574). Willem is supported by Friedrich Wilhelm, elector of Brandenburg, who concludes a separate peace with Louis and retains most of his possessions in Clèves.

University of Innsbruck is founded.

Feb 20, The first recorded wine auction was held in London.

Dutch forces retake New York and Delaware

vermeer's life

Pieter van Ruijven, prominent Delft citizen and Vermeer's principal patron, dies. Van Ruijven had purchased about 20 of Vermeer's works, almost half of his total artistic output.

Vermeer's name appears on the register of the Delft militia. He was described, third on the list, as a schutter or marksman of the first rotten or squadron of the third company or vendel. This was the Orange company whose members were recruited from the quarter of the city that contained Oude Langedijk, where Vermeer and his family was living with his step-mother, Maria Thins. Leonaert Bramer, friend of the Vermeer family for many years and noted painter of Delft, was a member of the same company. The fact that Vermeer was accepted in the Delft militia testifies to his high social standings.

June, Maria, Vermeer's eldest daughter, and Catharina, now about 20, marries the son of a prosperous Delft silk merchant Johannes Gilliszoon Cramer, who followed his father's profession. The wedding was held in Schipluy, as Maria's parents' wedding had been, and presumably with Catholic sacraments.

Reynier Bolnes, Vermeer's father-in-law, dies. Vermeer travels to Gouda to settle the estate.

Delft tax register more than 200 houses worth more than 20,000 guilders. A carpenter or mason earned about 500 guilders a year.

dutch painting
european painting & architecture

Philippe de Champaigne, French painter, dies.

Jun 21, Sir Christopher Wren begins to rebuild St Paul's Cathedral in London, replacing the old building which had been destroyed by the Great Fire.


Feb 21, Johann Augustin Kobelius, composer, is born.

Lully: Alceste, opera Paris.


Jun 20, Nicholas Rowe, poet laureate of England, is born.

Nov 8, John Milton (65), English poet (Paradise Lost), dies. His work included Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. Milton lost one eye at 36 and the other when he was 44. In 1952 Prof. Sensabaugh authored In That Grand Whig, Milton, an examination of Milton's political tracts.

The Great Historical Dictionary, or Anthology of Sacred and Secular History (Le grand Dictionnaire historique ou Mélange curieux de l'histoire sacré et profane) published at Lyons had been compiled by clergyman Louis Moréri, 31. It focuses on biographical and historical article, and will be translated into German, Italian, and Spanish as well as English, and it will appear in 20 editions by 1759

science & philosophy

Louis Moreri: Le Grand Dictionnaire historique, first encyclopedic reference work on history.

Mar 4, John Flamsteed is appointed first Astronomer Royal of England.

Newton delivers his Discourse on Light and Colour to the Royal Society.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek of Delft discovers "invisible" small animals using the first of more than 400 simple microscopes that he will produce. Chamberlain since 1660 to the city's sheriff, Leeuwenhoek has sufficient income to devote considerable time and attention to his avocation of grinding lenses and using them to study tiny objects which he has isolated from ponds, rainwater, well water, and other sources.


Feb 9, English reconqueres the city of New York from Netherlands.

Feb 19, Netherlands and England sign the Peace of Westminster. New York becomes English.

May 20, John Sobieski becomes Poland's first King.

The Treaty of Westminster February 9 ends the two-year war between England and the Netherlands. It returns New York and Delaware to England, freeing the English to expand their trade and grow prosperous while Europe becomes embroiled in depleting warfare.

England's Charles II begins to wear long waistcoats, introducing a fashion that encourages men to wear their watches in their waistcoat pockets instead of from their necks.

Portrait of Michiel van der Dussen, his Wife, Wilhelmina van Setten and their Children,

Portrait of Michiel van der Dussen,
his Wife, Wilhelmina van Setten
and their Children (detail)
Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet
159 x 210 cm.
Gemeente Musea Delft;
Collection Stedelijk
Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft

Nearly every scholar concurs that the Allegory of Faith was commissioned, presumably, by someone who had Catholic ties. Some believe that a Jesuit publication which contains the only contemporary reference to a glass ball (which hangs from the ceiling) and the indisputable Jesuit leanings of Vermeer's strong-willed mother-in-law point towards the Jesuits themselves. But as Walter Liedtke points out, Jesuits were more inclined towards conventional imagery. He suggests Michiel van der Dussen, a well-to-do Catholic and important supporter of the Delft Bagijnhof, a community of Catholic lay-women, as a likely candidate.

While Catholics still formed a sizable segment of the population when the United Provinces came into being, they were gradually submerged in the rising tide of Protestantism, particularly Calvinism. The Catholic faithful were compelled to worship in private—their churches were stripped of their altars and often were taken over for use by Protestants. In these circumstances, the Church could no longer furnish the rich commissions that had nourished artists since the beginning of the Renaissance.

Iconologia or Moral Emblems, Cauesare Ripa

Title page of Caesare Ripa'
Iconologia or Moral Emblems
English edition, 1709

There is little doubt that Vermeer derived some of the components of the Allegory of Faith from the 1644 Dutch translation of Ceasar Ripa's Iconologia, a well-known guide to the symbolism. The Iconologia was used by orators, artists and poets to give substance to qualities such as virtues, vices, passions to the arts and sciences. The concepts were arranged in alphabetical order by their Italian names. It was very influential in the 17th century and went through a number of editions, in all, 9 Italian editions and 8 editions in other languages. Both the text and the emblems vary greatly from edition to edition.

However, Vermeer did not adhere blindly to the prescriptions of Ripa's Iconologia. None of the four allegorical figures of Faith in the Iconologia match exactly. Ripa recommends that the figure of Faith, who represents most important virtue, should be painted with white, which relates to light and purity. Blue, which Vermeer used along with white, represents the heavenly sky. The hand posed on Faith's breast indicates that living faith lies within the heart. The cornerstone which has crushed the snake represents Christ who defeats Satan.

Fede Catholica, Cesare Ripa

Fede Catholica
from Cesare Ripa
1644, Amsterdam

Other important elements of Vermeer's painting, such as the glass ball and the crucifix, are not mentioned in Ripa's volume while the Eucharistic chalice and Missale point to the Holy Mass. However, Vermeer followed Ripa's description of Faith literally, who "has the world under her feet" by including the terrestrial globe.

It is proabable that Vermeer had previously consulted the Iconologia for the figure of the muse Clio in his Art of Painting.

Madonna with the Child by a Fireplace, Robert Campin

Madonna with the Child by a Fireplace
Robert Campin
34 x 24 cm.
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Modern critics tend to underline the contrived nature of the Allegory of Faith and most place it among Vermeer weakest works. It is hardly a favorite of the public either even though it contains passages of exquisite pictorial facture. However, the presumed lack of artistic participation should be taken with caution. Tastes for subject matter and style change insidiously through the centuries, and it would appear that Vermeer's contemporaries thought very differently about the painting. In a posthumous sale, the Allegory of Faith was described as "powerfully and glowingly painted," a statement which was backed-up by the considerable sum it was able to fetch, the highest documented sum for a Vermeer painting sold in the years during or shortly after the end of the artist's activity.

John Michael Montias has speculated that the artist's home may have served as a place of worship and that the work's subject is drawn from a real-life situation. As Vermeer expert Walter Liedtke points out, the painting may belong to a long Netherlandish tradition of representing religious events within the confines of a contemporary house (see image above). The improvised arrangement of improbable objects suggest that the setting may reflect the nature of the schiulkerk (hidden church) within a Dutch home meant to temporarily offer Catholics a means of celebrating the Holy Mass, prohibited by law from being publicly celebrated.

The Jesuit Church on the Oude Langendijk, Abraham Rademaker

The Jesuit Church on the Oude Langendijk
Abraham Rademaker
c. 1670
Brush and gray ink, 13.2 x 20.2 cm.
Gemeentearchief, Delft

In the past decades much ink has flowed concerning Vermeer's religious convictions. Nothing is known of the painter's religious thoughts before his marriage, except for the fact that he was baptized on 31 October, 1632 in the Reformed Church in Delft. Nonetheless, art historians hold that the young artist converted to Catholicism upon his marriage to Catharina Bolnes, even though all the information in regards is circumstantial.

Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, was a devoted Catholic and was likely instrumental in the painter's conversion. She grew up in the stronghold of Dutch Catholicism, the town of Gouda, and was also a Delft patrician with excellent family ties. In Gouda, her family celebrated mass secretly in their home, De Trapjes (The Little Steps.) Her sister became a nun in Louvain.

Given Vermeer's conversion to Catholicism, it would have been natural for him to settle in the Papists' Corner (Papenhoek - see image above) where his mother-in-law had a large house. The inn Mechelen, where he lived before his marriage with his family, was frequented chiefly by Protestants and was not a good place to bring up children in the Catholic faith. The Papist Corner was not a ghetto because many of the families who chose to live there by their own free will were prosperous. Although Catholics were not actively repressed in Delft, they were not altogether free to act as they wished and were forbidden from celebrating the Holy Mass in public. Vermeer married Catharina in a hidden church in the nearby village Schipluiden.

Although not common, religious conversions happened. Perhaps, Vermeer's conversion was inevitable. The Council of Trent had decreed matrimonial unions between Catholics and non-Catholics null and void. Thus, the marriage between Catharina as a Catholic and Vermeer as a non-Catholic would not have been accepted. According to the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church had always taught the dogma of the Holy matrimony as part of the Seven Sacraments, contrary to the Protestant Church (see Martin Luther, Von den Ehesachen. Wittenberg 1530). The apostolic vicar to The Netherlands, Phillip Rovenius, writing in 1648, equated the marriage of a Catholic to a nonbeliever to a pact with the devil.

Why did Vermeer convert? Did he do so to placate his influential, strong-willed mother-in-law, Maria Thins or was his conversion a spontaneous one dictated by inner spiritual necessities? This we will never know. Most likely, it was a good decision for both families.

By the time Vermeer's parents were married in 1615, the suppression of the public celebration of the Catholic faith in Delft was complete. But even though national decrees denied Catholics the right to serve public office, many areas of the Netherlands remained solidly Roman Catholic. Despite the hostility, Dutch Catholics continued to worship and educate their children as Catolics throughout the 17th century. In large cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem and Utrecht, commercial concerns dampened repeated calls for anti-Catholic laws. Although religious intolerance existed in the United Provinces, on the whole Dutch Catholics enjoyed remarkable freedoms compared with religious minorities elsewhere in early modern Europe. Penal laws against Catholics were occasionally enforced and Catholics were vulnerable to extortion, but things could have been far worse.

Vermeer very probably converted to Catholicism upon his marriage to Catharina Bolnes and there is no sign that his decision had negative repercussions on his career. The most influential painter in Delft and friend of the Vermeer family, Leonaert Bramer, as well as the popular painter of Dutch family life, Jan Steen, were noted Catholics.

The Jesuits, who had established their first Dutch mission in 1592, moved to a permanent location in Delft in 1612. In 1650, Catholic inhabitants of Delft had the "choice" between three schuilkerken (hidden churches): two (dated from 1630–1650) in the Bagijnhof at the Oude Delft canal, dedicated to Saint Hippolytus and Saint Ursula and attended by secular priests, and the third one, established 1617 in an old warehouse at Oude Langendijk, dedicated to Saint Josef and supervised by the Jesuits.

Due to the increasing population the hidden church at Oude Langendijk had to be enlarged c. 1835 and was rebuilt to a so-called waterstaatskerk, today's Maria Jesse Church. For this reason the house where Vermeer and his family had lived nearly 300 years earlier, had to be demolished.

Kyrie Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745)
"Kyrie" from: Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis, ZWV 17 (868 KB)
Musica Florea. Marek Stryncl