The Glass of Wine

(Het glas wijn)
c. 1658–1661
Oil on canvas
65 x 77 cm. (25 5/8 x 30 1/4 in.)
Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz,
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
inv. 912C
there are 9 hotspots in the image below
The Glass of Wine, Johannes Vermeer

The Berlin picture lacks the sociable fluency, the ingratiating inventiveness of the Metsu (The Duet). Vermeer's understanding, although of a finer kind, is also narrower.

Lawrence Gowing, Vermeer, 1952

No signature appears on this work.

Albert Blankert, Vermeer: 1632–1675, 1975

c. 1658–1660
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Vermeer: The Complete Works, New York, 1997

c. 1658–1659
Walter Liedtke, Vermeer: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2008

c. 1659–1660
Wayne Franits, Vermeer, 2015



Johannes Vermeer's The Glass of Wine with its frame

  • Jan van Loon sale, Delft, 18 July, 1736, no. 16;
  • John Hope, Amsterdam (1774-d. 1784); Hope heirs (until 1794);
  • Henry Thomas Hope, Deepdene, Surrey (d. 1862);
  • his daughter, Henrietta Adela (d. 1884);
  • her son, Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton-Hope, London (until 1898);
  • [Colnaghi and Asher Wertheimer, London];
  • purchased in 1901 by the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin (inv. 912c).
  • London 1881
    Winter Exhibitition
    Royal Academy of Arts
    22, no. 93, lent by Mrs. Hope
  • London 1891
    South Kensington Museum
    15, no. 52, as "interior," lent by Samuel S. Joseph, Esq.
  • Berlin 1929
    Erasmus, Kurt. Die Meister des holländischen Interieurs
    Galerie Dr Schäffer
    no. 103a and ill.
  • New York May 17, June 13, 1948
    Paintings from the Berlin Museums Exhibited in Co-operation with The Department of The Army
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    14, no. 139 and ill., as "Lady and Gentleman Drinking Wine"
  • Philadelphia June19, 1948–Jul y7, 1948
    Paintings from the Berlin Museums Exhibited in Co-operation with The Department of The Army
    Philadelphia Museum of Art
    14, no. 139 and ill., as "Lady and Gentleman Drinking Wine:
  • Chicago July 15, 1948–August 4, 1948
    Masterpieces of Painting Saved from the German Salt Mines; Property of the Berlin Museums
    14, no. 139 and ill., as "Lady and Gengleman Drinking Wine"
  • Boston August 14, 1948–August 31, 1948
    Paintings from the Berlin Museums Exhibited in Co-operation with The Department of The Army
    14, no. 139 and ill., as "Lady and Gentleman Drinking Wine"
  • 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
    Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
    164–168, no. 39 and ill.
  • Amsterdam 2000
    The Glory of Golden Age: Dutch Art of Seventeenth Century
    198, no. 137 and ill.
  • New York March 8–May 27, 2001
    Vermeer and the Delft School.
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    no. 71
  • London June 20–September 16, 2001
    Vermeer and the Delft School
    National Gallery
    no. 70
  • Tokyo August 2–December 14, 2008
    Vermeer and the Delft Style
    Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
    176–178, no 28 and ill.
Johannes  Vermeer's The Glass of Wine in scale
vermeer's life

In this period, the Guild of Saint Luke was probably the center of Vermeer's public life.

Vermeer may have began distancing himself from his family or origin. This fact is seen in his failure to name any of his children after his mother or father as was common practice of the time. His first two daughters, born before 1658, Were named Maria and Elizabeth after his mother-in-law and her sister.

In Vermeer's Procuress a Chinese bowl appears in the still life. Between 1602 and 1657 the Dutch had imported millions of pieces of porcelain. Native Delft artisans began feverishly producing everything from elaborate imitations of Chinese porcelain to the humble floor tiles seen in some of Vermeer's interiors.

dutch painting

Pieter de Hooch: paints Courtyard of a House in Delft, one of finest works. De Hoogh's courtyards may have influenced Vermeer's The Little Street.

Frans van Mieris paints The Duet.

Adriaen van de Velde paints Farm with a Dead Tree.

european painting & architecture Bernini: church at Castel Gandolfo (-1661). Bernini did not build many churches from scratch, preferring instead to concentrate on the embellishment of pre-existing structures. He fulfilled three commissions in the field; his stature allowed him the freedom to design the structure and decorate the interiors in coherent designs.
music Apr 22, Giuseppe Torelli, composer (Concert Grossi op 8), is born in Italy.
literature Moliere was anointed with the patronage of King Louis XIV. Molière left behind a body of work which not only changed the face of French classical comedy, but has gone on to influence the work of other dramatists the world over. The greatest of his plays include The School for Husbands (1661), The School for Wives (1662), The Misanthrope (1666), The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1666), Tartuffe (1664, 1667, 1669), The Miser (1668), and The Imaginary Invalid (1673).
science & philosophy Amsterdam naturalist Jan Swammerdam, 21, gives the first description of red blood cells. He will complete his medical studies in 1667 but devote himself to studying insects, tadpoles, frogs, and mammals rather than practicing medicine.
history Sep 3, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the New Commonwealth, i.e. ruler over England's Puritan parliament, dies at age 59. Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as English Lord Protector.
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, 1650 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 stillness.

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.
The Quack, Anonymous Dutch painter

The Quack (detail)
Anonymous Dutch painter
c. 1619–1625
Oil on panel, 67 x 90.7cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Vermeer's compositions are full of so-called pictures-within-pictures and in a sense, art becomes its own subject. However, the abundance of pictures-within-pictures in Vermeer's works is not only a personal choice, it reflects a real-life situation: paintings were more abundant in the Netherlands than in any other place in the world.

Foreigners who visited the Netherlands in the 17th century were amazed by how many pictures they found. In an oft-quoted diary, British traveler Peter Mundy wrote in 1640: "As for the art of Painting and the affection of the people to Pictures, I think none other go beyond them." In fact, paintings were everywhere except in the Reformed churches. In addition to well-off merchants, Mundy reported that bakers, cobblers, butchers and even blacksmiths all possessed at least one painting.

Since painting was no longer primarily the preserve of church or aristocracy or even the very wealthy, the types of pictures produced and sold as well as their appearance were drastically altered. The newly empowered urban upper class had discovered that paintings, as well as luxury items, could become an effective symbol of power, objects to be avidly collected and proudly exhibited. Consequently, paintings could also become another form of easily transportable merchandise in Holland which had become the Mecca of world trade. The fact that they were easy to handle and were less bulky made it easier to place them on the market.

The Suitor's Visit, Gerrit ter Borch

The Suitor's Visit (detail)
Gerrit ter Borch
c. 1658
Oil on canvas, 71 x 73 cm.
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The present work is a perfect example of a new type of Dutch painting which explored the changing social mores of the second half of the 17th century pioneered by Gerrit ter Borch (see detail left) and Frans van Mieris.

Just a few decades before, a gentleman would not have been seen in the company of a young woman in a domestic setting. Custom did not allow private meetings between the wooer and wooed. During Vermeer's lifetime, when peace had been assured and the Netherlands had become the most prosperous nation in Europe, the rules of courtship began to relax. Romance became a factor to be reckoned with and the private home became an accepted venue for negotiating marriage. However, the conventions of well-to-do courtship became restrained and increasingly ritualized. Artists, who had formally specialized in mercenary love of the brothels, discovered a brand-new market for scenes of barely-veiled flirtations amidst the finely appointed bourgeois home.

Young Woman Drinking, Pieter de Hooch

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

Even if Vermeer's thematic intentions remain uncertain, it is clear he had demanding intellectual program for his more complicated works. The theme of this picture, courtship and love, had already been pioneered by Dutch artists decades before. Vermeer's foray into the new field were probably inspired by Pieter de Hooch.

Although De Hooch is probably the direct source of inspiration for this particular composition, Vermeer's art distinguishes itself from De Hooch's because it addresses more complex compositional and thematic issues. Whereas Vermeer's figures are brought prominently into the foreground and appear naturalistic, often with considerable sensitivity to their psychological states, De Hooch's figures are stiff, even doll-like, and sometimes do not appear anchored within the painting's three-dimensional space. Their postures are less natural and their emotions are seldom as nuanced as those of Vermeer. Also, while Vermeer dealt with moral questions of a certain weight (e.g., Last Judgment, Vanitas and religious faith) De Hooch favored less lighter subjects, focusing on home and hearth contents. However, to De Hooch's credit the historian Simon Schama holds that the artist's interiors portray tender child-rearing, "the first sustained image of parental love that European art has shown us."

Art historian Peter Sutton adds the interesting proposition that the woman and child who appear in so many of De Hooch's works are likely the artist's own wife and son, and the familiar rooms probably those of his own house. None of Vermeer's sitters have been identified.

Although this kind of wide-brimmed hat could be made of wool or other materials, felt made from beaver hair produced a hat which held its form and was more weather resistant. A hat like the one in the present painting was not owned by everyone.

As the historian Timothy Brook noted, during the 17th century, beaver pelts imported from the New World were at the center of a lucrative web of trade since the beaver population of Europe had been largely depleted. The beaver-rich New World territory—eventually named New Netherlands—came under the jurisdiction of the Dutch West India Company in 1621, as part of the conditions of the Company's charter. The pelts were first sent to Russia, where they were valued for their shiny outside fur. Russian customers would eventually sell the furs back into the trade. When worn, dirty and sufficiently greasy to be properly felted they were converted into felt hats, and resold. Hatters used mercury to mat beaver fur's dense, warm undercoat. Exposure to the toxic chemical, however, caused severe mental disorders and is the source of the otherwise strange expression, "mad as a hatter."

Parental Admonition, Gerrit ter Borch

Parental Admonition (detail)
Gerrit ter Borch
c. 1654
Oil on canvas, 71 x 73 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

While grapes had been grown in the Netherlands since the Roman times, the lack of sunlight meant that they produced poor wines. Nonetheless, fine quality wines could be easily imported from France, Germany, Spain and Portugal. This trade made the fortunes of many. Although wine was initially affordable for only the upper classes, by the 1650s wine consumption had outstripped beer. Young white wines from France and Germany mixed with honey and spices to counteract their natural tartness made a fine end to a large meal.

Recommended for children and adults alike, beer was still most popular beverage among the lower classes. Since it was boiled during preparation, it was safer to drink than plain water. In the countryside, buttermilk and whey were acceptable alternatives to beer, especially at breakfast, but whole milk was largely distrusted.

Another alcoholic drink, jenever, was also widely available in the Netherlands. Due to the lack of refined distilling techniques herbs were added to mask the flavor. The result was a juniper-flavored and strongly alcoholic liquor which was initially sold as medicine. By the late 1680s, the Dutch were exporting over 10 million gallons a year. Traditional jenever is still very popular in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Music played a significant role in the daily life of the Netherlands despite restrictions imposed by the Calvinist church. Wealthy burghers loved to flaunt their newly gained life-style in elegant musical gatherings (see left) where the display expensive musical instruments played an important part.

As noted by the music critic and historian Julie Anne Sadie, a key vehicle for the diffusion of music in the Netherlands were the so-called collegia musica, which flourished in many important cities. Surviving documents provide insights into both social and musical attitudes and reveal that their importance extends far beyond the dilettantism usually associated with such groups. Town councils sometimes support a collegia by making a room available for the musicians. As early as the 17th century and increasingly in the 18th, collegia musica, supported by a wealthy bourgeoisie, gave traveling foreign musicians the opportunity to make public appearances, thus anticipating organized public concerts. In the 17th century, their repertory consisted largely of polyphonic songs and madrigals and simple instrumental music, some of which was of local origin. Authentic information about historical collegia musica is often fragmentary, and has been preserved only by chance.

Interior with a Musical Company, Joost Corneliszoon Droogsloo

Interior with a Musical Company
Joost Corneliszoon Droogsloot
Oil on canvas, 97.7 x 126.8 cm.
Centraal Museum, Utrecht

The Glass of Wine (diagram), Johannes Vermeer

Before settling on the upright format, Vermeer executed two interiors which are wider than they are higher. The horizontal format had been favored by the pioneers in the Dutch genre interior such as Willem Buyteweck and Dirk Hals but was later abandoned by, perhaps, the most refined practitioner of the motif, Gerrit ter Borch.

Vermeer must have recognized that in the horizontal composition, the painter is naturally constrained to dispose both objects and figures in a frieze-like sequence from left to right and that the observer tends to view them separately one after another as they read words in a book. This kind of reading did not worry the early painters since personal dialogue or figural unity was the last of their concerns.

Vermeer, instead, was more attuned to the private dialogue between the figures and attempted to bond the figures visually and emotionally. He did not have to look far for the appropriate compositional solution since it was one that he had already successfully employed in two earlier pictures, the Diana and her Companions and the Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. In all three paintings, the principal motif is unified with a circular composition, a common compositional device ideveloped during the Renaissance.

In the present work the circular composition effectively balances the perspectival pull towards the background wall and the dazzling pattern of the stained-glass window.

music icon The Lady Nevils Delight (cittern) [688 KB]
from: Ancient Instruments - by Various Artists -Tuxedo (no. 33)

Do Vermeer's paintings really signify something other than the scenes they represent?

After many years of research, scholars have come to the conclusion that there exists no single interpretative key to unlock the presumed hidden meaning of Vermeer's painting. Moreover, there is a growing sensation that the iconographical method may have reached its limits. Some historians have gone full circle and return to what Thoré-Bürger expounded 150 years ago: Dutch paintings might be taken literally for what they appear to be at first glance, remarkable descriptions of a particular situation and time.

The principal advocate of the iconographic method as applied to Dutch genre paintings is Eddy de Jongh. Rather than assuming naturalism as the default mode of representation, in De Jongh's system, everyday objects are interpreted as having symbolic meaning that, taken together, contribute to the meaning of the painting as a whole. While in the Vanitas imagery of Dutch still lifes symbolic meaning of certain objects and events was intentionally blunt—hourglasses, time pieces or spent candles signaled the ephemerally and futility of the material world—genre scenes of the kind painted by Vermeer demanded an all-encompassing approach. Their symbolic messages are embedded deeper within the apparently quotidian. Unlike Panofsky, the originator of iconographical studies of Renaissance painting, De Jongh spoke of "apparent realism," rather than "disguised symbolism" since the illusionist appearance in Dutch paintings is nonetheless its most remarkable trait. To support his readings, De Jongh marshaled an array of texts and prints which in turn help to produce a picture of the broader cultural context for viewing these works.

Many believe that beneath the extraordinary realism of Dutch art reflects an allegorical view of nature that provided a means for conveying various messages to contemporary viewers. The Dutch, so it goes, with their ingrained Calvinist beliefs, were a moralizing people. While they thoroughly enjoyed the sensual pleasures of life, they were keenly aware of the consequences of wrong behavior. Paintings, even those representing everyday objects and events, helped provide reminders about the brevity of life and the need for moderation and temperance in one's conduct.

The iconographical approach to Dutch paintings has found detractors. Many believe that the average Dutchman had no need to be told what was morally right or wrong. In her groundbreaking study, The Art of Describing, Svetlana Alpers forcefully advanced the opposed notion of Dutch painting, unlike Italian painting, as essentially descriptive and non-narrative, supported by a fascinating array of ideas and data culled from different fields, including optics, perspective theory, and cartography. In her view, Dutch painters participated in a distinctive visual culture that led them to value detailed realistic paintings of everyday life as a way of exploring and knowing the world, not as a way of presenting disguised moralistic meanings.

The latest development in the iconographical vein is that paintings were deliberately meant to have open-ended meaning, a sort of interpretative ambiguity where the final significance of the painting depends upon the emotions and cultural experiences of the viewer. Indeed, ambiguity is already latent in many important symbols. Mirrors, for example, were associated with both vanity and self-introspection.

Some scholars believe, in essence, that both are right. Dutch painters deliberately created open-ended works which viewers could interpret symbolically or delight in the astounding visual qualities represented therein.

Along with Gerrit Dou, Gerrit ter Borch and Frans van Mieris, Vermeer practiced what the Dutch called "fijnschilderei" or "fine painting." This new, ambitious form of painting catered to the quasi-aristocratic burgher tastes which had developed after the 1650s when religious inhibitions in regards to the accumulation and display of materials riches began to loosen. In this period, Dutch burghers, many who had retired from work and were able live on their investments and land holdings, desired to distance themselves off from the rest of society. The construction of grand villas, luxurious city dwellings and formal gardens were among their favorite pastimes and art collecting became a means to not only boast their princely life style but to define their social aspirations as well.

In order to gratify the burghers whose life-style had not yet been pictured, the fijnschilders focused on precious, expensive, cultivated things, above all clothes and interior furnishings. Favored motifs were conversation, gallant courtship, music making, poetry, letter reading and letter writing. The direct, emphatic display of emotion was banished in favor of self containment and barely perceptible gesture. To convey the new social mentality a consonant painting style and a technique was required. They favored polished, almost invisible brushwork and a detailed description of form necessary to capture the textures and colors of luxurious furnishings and costume. The earlier drab earth colors, jumbled compositions and indistinct lighting practiced by painters of low-life tavern scenes and bare home settings gave way to clear, bright lighting, geometrically ordered compositions and rich colors. The surface of fijnschilder paintings remains virtually undisturbed by paint relief.

Gallant Conversation, Known as "The Paternal Admonition"
Gerrit ter Borch
c. 1654
Oil on canvas, 69 x 60 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Since this new type of painting required great skill and expenditure of time, prices rivaled those paid for the finest works of the venerated Italian masters. A good Dou could fetch over 1,000 guilders, the equivalent of the price of an modest Dutch house. Dou, Van Mieris and Ter Borch all had international reputations while the great part of Vermeer's oeuvre was acquired by the patrician Pieter van Ruijven of Delft who, in order to bolster his social standing, paid an astronomical sum of 16,000 guilders to acquire land near Schiedam, which brought with it the title of Lord of Spalant in 1669.