The Girl with a Wineglass

(Dame en twee heren)
c. 1659-1660
Oil on canvas
78 x 67 cm. (30 3/4 x 26 3/8 in.)
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig (Brunswick)
there are 10 hotspots in the image below
The Girl with a Wineglass,  Johannes Vermeer

critical excerpt

Facsimile of signature of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Wineglass
inscribed lower right window pane: IVMeer (VM in ligature)

detail of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Wineglass

c. 1659-1660
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. (Vermeer: The Complete Works, New York, 1997)

c. 1659-1660 - Walter Liedtke (Vermeer: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2008)

The fine, plain-weave linen with a thread count of 14 x 15 per cm² retains its original tacking edges; on both left and right sides are selvedges; The support has been glue/paste lined. The double ground consists of a white layer, containing chalk, lead white, and umber, followed by a reddish brown layer. The ground was left uncovered along several outlines of the figures and the wine jug. It extends a few millimeters over the tacking edges.

Parts of the window, red dress, chair, and many of the highlights were painted wet-in-wet, with impasto in the highlights, the fruit, and the red skirt of the figure in the window. Ultramarine is used extensively in the window, the background, the tablecloth, and in the underpaint of the shadows of the girl's red dress. The position of the heads of the standing man and the girl, and the bows in her hair, have been slightly altered. Some parts of the painting appear unfinished, such as the wall between the male figures, and the arm and cuff of the girl. There is degraded medium in the ultramarine mixtures and the pigment appears discolored.

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


Johannes Vermeer Girl with a Wineglass with frame
image thanks to Mike Buffington

  • (?) Pieter Claesz van Ruijven, Delft (d. 1674);
  • (?) his widow, Maria de Knuijt, Delft (d. 1681);
  • (?) their daughter, Magdalena van Ruijven, Delft (d. 1682);
  • (?) her widower, Jacob Abrahamsz Dissius (d. 1695);
  • Dissius sale, Amsterdam, 16 May 1696, no. 9;
  • Anton Ulrich, Duke of Braunschweig [Brunswick], (before 1710);
  • in 1714 to the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig (inv. 316).
  • Berlin 1929
    Erasmus, Kurt. Die Meister des holländischen Interieurs. Galerie Dr Schäffer.
    no. 103a and ill.
  • Schaffhausen 1949
    Rembrandt und seine Zeit. Museum zu Allerheiligen.
    76, no. 188 and ill.
  • Brunswick 1978
    Die Klessmann, Rüdiger. Die Sprache der Bilder: Realität und Bedeutung in der niederlandischen Malerei des 17 Jarhunderts.
    164-168, no. 39 and ill.
  • Madrid 19  February – 18 May, 2003
    Vermeer y el interior holandés. Museo Nacional del Prado.
    168-169 no. 33 and ill.
  • Tokyo 2 August –  14 December, 2008
    Vermeer and the Delft Style. Metropolitan Art Museum.
    176-178, no 28 and ill.
  • Rome 27 September, 2012 - 20 January, 2013
    Vermeer. Il secolo d’oro dell’arte olandese. Scuderie del Quirinale.
    210. no. 47 and ill.
Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Wineglass in scale
vermeer's life

Around 1659 or 1660, Vermeer's brother-in-law Willem Bolnes left his irascible father's house in Gouda to live on one of the family's properties in Schoonhoven. Willem incurrs in debts and borrowing money from his mother, Maria Thins, since his father had become too impoverished to help. Willem apparently had no kind of work. He was later to become a serious problem for Vermeer and his wife.

In the late 1650s Vermeer, paints two exceptionally luminous interiors, inspired by genre models of the time. In both Officer and Laughing Girl and The Milkmaid he uses his famous "pointillist" technique (thick points of light colored paint in the most intensely light areas of the composition called pointillés. This technical artifice conveys a sense of brilliancy rarely seen in any other of his works. Vermeer never again painted a humble sitter, such as the common milkmaid.

dutch painting

Jan van der Weff is born. Johan Willem, Elector Palatine, whom he had met in 1696, appointed him Court Painter in 1697 at a salary of 4,000 guilders on condition he work for him six months of the year. In 1703 this was increased to nine months, and he was made a knight. He remained in Rotterdam, making trips to Düsseldorf to deliver pictures and paint portraits.

Jan Janz de Heem ( d. 1695) is born. Son of the celebrated still life painter Jan Davidsz de Heem he was baptized on 2 July I650 in Antwerp. From 1667 to 1672 he worked in Utrecht with his father who sometimes retouched the son's work. There has undoubtedly been much confusion between the work of father and son. Jan Jansz is last recorded in a document of 1695.

european painting & architecture 1659-1661 Michael Sweerts, Flemish painter, created his rosy Portrait of a Youth.
music Mar 7, Henry Purcell, English organist, composer (Dido & Aeneas), was born. Purcell was one of the greatest composers of the Baroque period and one of the greatest of all English composers. He wrote fantasias for viols, masterpieces of contrapuntal writing in the old style, and some at least of the more modern sonatas for violins, which reveal some acquaintance with Italian models. In time Purcell became increasingly in demand as a composer, and his theatre music in particular made his name familiar to many who knew nothing of his church music or the odes and welcome songs he wrote for the court.
literature Oedipus (Oedipe) by Pierre Corneille 1/24 at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris
science & philosophy

Christiaan Huygens of Holland used a 2-inch telescope lens and discovered that the Martian day is nearly the same as an Earth day. He also discovers the rings of Saturn. He also constructs a chronometer for use at sea; however, it is influenced by the motion of the ship and does not keep correct time.

English physician Thomas Willis, 38, gives the first description of typhoid fever.

Elementa curvarum by Jan De Witt gives an algebraic treatment of conic sections using the newly developed analytic geometry. It appears as part of an edition of Schooten's Geometria a Renato Des Cartes.

history The Spanish infanta Marie Therese introduces the French court to cocoa, which will be endorsed by the Paris faculty of medicine and received with enthusiasm until it becomes surrounded with suspicion as an aphrodisiac in some circles and as a mysterious potion in others.
vermeer's life

Vermeer is appointed one of the headman of the Guild of Saint Luke to a term of two years. This fact has been interpreted as a testimony of the high esteem in which the artist was at the time held. However, by the time Vermeer was elected headmaster, many of the painters resident in Delft had left for the more prosperous Amsterdam and so his election may have had less significance than usually thought.

Vermeer and his wife bury a child in the Old Church in Delft. The same document states, Vermeer and his wife were then living in the house of Maria Thins on the Oude Langendijk in Delft. At the time, the household included Vermeer, his wife, his mother-in-law, and three children, not counting an infant who had died and at least one female servant. The house had a basement, a lower hall with a vestibule, a great hall, a small room adjoining the hall, an interior kitchen, a little back kitchen, a cooking kitchen, a washing kitchen, a corridor, and an upper floor with two rooms, one of which was taken up by Vermeer's studio.

Vermeer's family situation was unusual. Very few married men in the Netherlands lived with a parent or parent-in-law for an extended period of time. Vermeer's marriage too, must be considered exceptional in as much as he married outside his own family's religion and social class. He moved from the lower, artisinal class of his Reformed parents who lived on the Delft Square to the higher social stratum of the Catholic in-laws who instead lived in the somewhat segregated "Papist Corner," the Catholic quarter of the city.

The burial of his child is the earliest known record of the artist's residence in Maria Thin's house.

dutch painting

Jan van Mieris is born. Son of the famous Frans van Mieris, Jan painted principally history subjects, but his earliest works were apparently genre scenes in his father's manner.

Jacob van Ruisdael paints Jewish Cemetery. The painting's ruinous, glowering scene exemplifies the trend toward turbulence in Dutch landscape at mid-century.

Adriean Coorte is born. Coorte devoted himself to the precise rendering of simple objects in small paintings. His paintings often have strong illumination that gives the composition an enchanting stil

european painting & architecture Diego Velázquez, Spanish painter, dies.
music Alessandro Scarlatti, Italian musician and composer, father of Domenico is born.
science & philosophy

Marcello Malpighi discovers that the lungs consist of many small air pockets and a complex system of blood vessels. By observing capillaries through a microscope he completes the work of Harvey in describing the circulation of the blood.

Robert Boyle announces in New Experiments Physico-Mechanical Touching the Spring of Air that removing the air in a vacuum chamber extinguishes a flame and kills small animals, indicating that combustion and respiration are similar processes.

history May 28, George I, king of England), is born.

May 29, Charles II, who had fled to France, is restored to the English throne after the Puritan Commonwealth. Charles made a deal with George Monck, a general of the New Model Army, and with the old parliamentary foes of his father. The British experiment with republicanism came to an end with the restoration of Charles II.

Dec 24, Mary I Henriette Stuart (29), queen of England, dies.

The Dutch crafted an early version of a boat they called a "yacht."

1660s The British began to dominate the trade in port wine from Portugal after a political spat with the French denied them the French Bordeaux wines. Brandy was added to the Portuguese wines to fortify them for the Atlantic voyage.

Not a single sitter in Vermeer's painting has ever been identified. The most obvious, but completely wrong candidate would be Janet Vogel whose coat of arms stands out on the opened window. Documents show that she had died eight years before Vermeer was even born. Another candidate might be Maria de Knuijt, the wife of Vermeer's wealthy Delft patron Pieter van Ruijven since it is extremely likely that this painting was part of their family collection. We know that in her will Maria bequeathed to Vermeer 500 florins. This sum was comparable to the cost of one to three expensive cabinet pictures. Such a bequest, made to a painter who was not a family member, was possibly unique in 17th-century Netherlands. It must count as a gesture of special esteem and commitment to the painter's well-being.

Although Maria de Knuijt may have been acting on behalf of her husband, she had brought the far greater share of money to their marriage, and her taste must have been taken into account. As a supporter of the Orthodox wing of the Reformed church, De Knuijt might have found particularly appealing the chaste dignity that informs Vermeer's interpretations of femininity. However, the presence of the Janet Vogel's coat of arms would be in conflict with Maria de Knuijt's social identity which must have been central question of her life. It cannot be ruled out that Vermeer's own wife, Catharina Bolnes, had posed for the painting but in a sense, the sitter's identity is besides the point. Vermeer's painting should not to be taken as a biographical statement.

Amorum emblemata, Otto van Veen

Amorum emblemata
Otto van Veen

The people of the Netherlands were only too happy to forget the atrocities of the war of independence with Spain and turn their thoughts to the lighter sides of life, including naturally, love. By the second half of the century the intricacies of courtship and of lovemaking had become one of the most popular subjects among Dutch genre artists. Painters had ample literary sources to draw from including moralizing literature, love poems, songbooks, guides to courting etiquette, plays as well as increasingly popular collections of prose love stories. Several of these were printed in Vermeer's home town Delft and Vermeer's paintings show that he was no doubt aware of them. Earlier 17th-century art images typically displayed merry outdoor garden parties populated with a host of young Dutch in fancy contemporary dress engaged in courtship, dancing and music making. These paintings descend from the iconography of the garden of love. To a certain degree such images must have derived from the popular pastoral festivals (Fêtes Champêtres), which recalled the ideals of ancient Arcadia popular in the court of Louis XIV and XV.

By the 1650s, when Vermeer crafted his first paintings of the same theme, it had undergone significant changes. The gatherings were reduced to two or three members which no longer took place in open spaces but rather within the intimate confines of well-to-do homes. Vermeer drew most of his compositional and thematic models from Gerard ter Borch who captured the finest nuances of costume and gesture, and Pieter de Hooch who was the first artist to stage them in the sunlit corner of a room.

The Glass of Wine in Berlin and the present Girl with a Wineglass appear to represent a very similar theme. The presence of the ceramic tiles and ornately leaded stained-glass windows in both pictures would suggest that they were even painted in the same room. For this reason Vermeer experts tend to date these two works very closely. However, on close inspection the two paintings present notable technical disparities which may suggest that they were painted in a somewhat larger interval of time.

The Berlin painting present a rougher surface with loaded color reminiscent of the grainy textures found in Officer and Laughing Girl and the famous Milkmaid. Instead, the Girl with a Wineglass presents a very smooth, almost polished surface. Following this work, Vermeer's paint application became evermore subtle. Art historian Mariët Westermann has suggested that Vermeer had in fact begun to follow the so-called net, or smooth manner in vogue among the most sought-after painters of the time. The new smooth manner went along with the more genteel and elegant themes. The rouw, or rough manner of the great Rembrandt van Rijn which had earned international fame, had begun to be criticized and rejected by the most representative art critics of the time such as Samuel Hoogstraten.

As with other Vermeer's group scenes, there is a certain ambiguity to this picture. The standing figure of the stained-glass window is surely a symbol of Temperance which symbolizes good deeds and emotional control. Likewise, it is very probable that the staid portrait on the rear wall provides some sort of admonitory comment to the scene which unfolds.

However, are we to make of the male figure slumped in the background? Is he, as the window, a caution against overindulgence? Is he drunk, dozing or does his pose suggest lovesickness and melancholy?

Most probably the ambiguity prevalent in Vermeer's work pertains also to certain 17th-century still life paintings, many of which seem to walk a fine line between an invitation and a condemnation of sensual pleasure.

17th-century illustration of how to hold a glass of wine

Art historian Paul Taylor has recently taken a fresh look at Vermeer's celebrated compositions in the light of 17th-century concepts of composition, or ordinantie, as described by the influential Dutch artist and art theorist, Gérard de Lairesse.

Taylor reveals that one of the key terms in Lairesse's discussion of composition is "the concept of probability, waarschynelykheid; indeed Lairesse tells us that 'Probability is the most important thing to bear in mind when composing a picture.'" According to Lairesse "one must make it evident not only in the general disposition, but also in each particular object, and attentively reject things which are in conflict with it." "As an example Lairesse's tells us that if we are painting a dining room we should make it clear whether a meal is about to take place, or has already taken place; if the latter, we should depict empty vessels lying in disorder, empty plates."

Gesture, dress and the proper posture and their disposition were all marshaled to clarify the narrative and strengthened its message. Fussy details had to be avoided lest they detract from the overriding message. Lairesse even illustrated how the artist might suggest the social position of his sitter by the way in which they hold their glasses. Position No. 5 (see detail above) is comparable to the gesture seen in the present work, which was the most refined. As Lairesse wrote, "A prince holds it handily and cautiously below on the foot."

What is unusual about Lairesse's concept of composition is that he seems relatively unconcerned with the formal, purely aesthetic concerns which dominate modern understanding of pictorial composition, favoring instead, the "force of narrative" above all other considerations.

While Lairesse was indeed first and foremost a painter of grand historical events of great import, who, at least theoretically, would have not favored Vermeer's scenes of daily life, it is hard to imagine that he would have been immune to the force and essentiality of the Delft Master's compositions.

Although it often goes unnoticed, the great majority of 17th-century Dutch genre interiors are set in the left-hand corner of a room. The side wall has a window which serves to illuminate the scene and the background wall always runs parallel to the picture plane closing off the space in order to create a more intimate mood. The origins of this pictorial formula may be linked with the fact that an artist usually painted with the light source coming from the left so that the shadow made by his hand did not disturb the area on which he was working. The fact that western spectators read from left to right also contributes to the success of this formula.

Woman Drinking with Soldiers, Pieter de Hooch

Woman Drinking with Soldiers
Pieter de Hooch
Oil on canvas, 69 x 60 cm.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

It is an accepted fact that Vermeer drew the great part of compositional and thematic contents directly from his fellow painters. In particular, the painting which seems to have inspired the present work is Pieter de Hooch's Woman Drinking with Soldiers (1658).

In the 1650s, just before he left Delft for Amsterdam in 1660 or 1661, De Hooch made some his best pictures represent cool, daylight which gently filters through open widows ro window panes, bathing the interiors with a light which is interrupted by the presence of a few carefully selected figures and objects.

Although similar figure groupings had been devised by earlier painters, De Hooch was the first artist to set them in a well-defined three-dimensional space illuminated by a bright coherent lighting system. In a certain sense, for the first time, De Hooch had made the description of space as important as the figures themselves. Some critics assert that Vermeer went one step further and made space and light the true subject of his canvases.

Book of the Courtier, Baldassare Castiglione

The Book of the Courtier
Baldassare Castiglione
(English translation of Il Cortegiano)

Perhaps the long hair and loose-fitting dress of both men in this work reflect a sort of "negligent" romantic style which had become fashionable among men by the 1650s. Widely circulated manners books noted that it was not considered manly for one's dress to be too neat. Long hair became popular in different classes (perhaps because it could be achieved by those who could not afford expensive clothing). This fashion caused such alarm that church councils generating a controversy known as "The Dispute of the Locks" in 1645.

At least some of the inspiration for these fashions came from Baldassare Castiglione's 1528 book The Courtier. It describes the ideals and behavior for the perfect gentleman whose appearance should appear effortless and even offhanded.

Perhaps the austere figure of the formal portrait which looms in the background is a comment on loosening mores which were sternly criticized by elder generations.

Teasing the Pet, Frans van Mieris

Teasing the Pet
Frans van Mieris
27.5 x 20 cm.
Mauritshuis, The Hague

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Vermeer's working method was his penchant for assimilating multiple motifs and stylistic elements drawn from the works of his colleagues. In the present composition by Vermeer, we find traces of Pieter de Hooch's rationalized interiors, the luxurious satin costumes of Gerard ter Borch and the interactive "body language" of the figures found in the works of Frans van Mieris bound together into an original, artistic solution.

In the Teasing the Pet of Van Mieris, which is often related to the present work, Vermeer may have appreciated the dynamics between the two figures where the non-too-subtle cavalier who attempts to make contact with the young girl by pulling her little dog's ear. Van Mieris is credited for having invented this motif which was later frequently repeated by his colleagues.

As usual, Vermeer rarely quoted his sources verbatim. Instead of the innocent puppy, he chose to formalize the encounter by replacing the anecdotal puppy with a more ceremonial offering of wine. While the lady in Van Mieris' work, at least for the moment, shuns her courtier's advances, the women in Vermeer's paintings looks out to the viewer and does not let precisely know her feelings. Thus each viewer may project into the picture his own thoughts and expectations becoming a participant e in the work's narrative.

The Refused Glass, Ludolf de Jongh

The Refused Glass
Ludolf de Jongh
1650 -1655
117 x 92 cm.
National Gallery, London

Although the present work has been most frequently linked to models by De Hooch (Woman Drinking with Soldiers, see related artworks number 1, below) and Frans van Mieris, art historian Roland E. Fleischer has advanced evidence that Vermeer's initial inspiration may have a been a painting of the Dutch artist Ludolf de Jongh, The Refused Glass (see image left). Analyzing the particularities of the two figures' costumes in De Jongh's work Fleischer dates the painting somewhere between 1650 and 1655, which suggests that it was the inspiration for not only Vermeer's but for De Hooch's painting as well. De Jongh was not of Delft where Vermeer and De Hooch traded ideas but he was almost certainly taught De Hooch in Rotterdam before the latter moved to Delft. It is known that the two remained in contact even after the De Hooch's move to Delft in the 1660s.

The pictures also may be more closely tied in theme than is apparent at first glance. Although the traditional title The Refused Glass is "based on the gesture of the seated lady's right hand, by which she supposedly declines the drink offered by the gentleman who bends towards her," Fleischer notes that on closer examination, "the man's right had, which holds the glass between the thumb and index finger may gracefully support the woman's hand with the remaining three finger. Instead of spurning the offer of wine, the lady may be coy recipient." Analogously, the lady in Vermeer's composition shows no sign of refusal.

De Jongh's work is uncharacteristically large for a genre painting and the Brunswick picture by Vermeer is one of the few large-scale interiors by Vermeer. Furthermore, both woman wear red satin dresses and fruit is displayed in both.

Fleischer conjectures that the subject may be a translation of a Classical theme Venus Ceres and Bacchus in harmonious relationship. The three classical deities formed a popular trio in Western thought through the centuries based on Terence's proverb, "without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus is chilled" that is, without food and wine love grows cold. Thus, De Jongh and Vermeer would have artist given a contemporary setting of everyday life "a deeper significance by investing it with a time-honored universal truth already expressed in Ancient literature, thereby uniting the category of genre with those of allegory and history."