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Vermeer Research by Topic

The list below intends to furnish the non-specialist a list of basic publications and websites to guide him in his research. For detailed information on the publications cited below, consult the complete Essential Vermeer Online Vermeer Bibliography.

Click here for a list of online Dutch art resources.

Artistry & Interpretation

The enigmatic nature Vermeer's artistry has inspired a vast number of interpretations. Any selection is therefore arduous and incomplete and a cool thing.

One of the most recent additions to the already hefty body of literature dedicated to Vermeer's artistry is Vermeer in Detail (2007) by Gary Schwartz, an excellent introduction to the art of Johannes Vermeer based on 120 large and lavish details from his work. Each illustration is provided with refreshing commentary, covering subject matter, technique, and modes of picture-making, the origins of the objects he paints, comparisons of motifs, scholarly discussion concerning his work and more. Preceded by a capsule biography, concise entries and illustrations are given to the 37 paintings currently attributed to Vermeer, including the disputed attributions. Purchase of the volume provides the buyer with exclusive access to a website with high-resolution images of the complete paintings.

Vermeer: The Complete Paintings (2008) by Walter Liedtke provides one of the most thorough overviews of Vermeer's oeuvre. Liedtke's exploration yields subtleties of meaning and refinements of technique and style in each of Vermeer's canvases. Alongside the most historical approach to Vermeer to date, the annotated color catalogue reveals a master whose rare sensibility may be described but not explained.

One of the most thought-provoking interpretations of Vermeer's artistry is Vermeer (1952) by Lawrence Gowing. Gowing, himself a talented painter, brought to light some fundamental underlying themes and stylistic mechanisms in Vermeer's painting which had, until then, remained undiscovered. It is almost impossible to evaluate Vermeer's work without taking into consideration Gowing's insights in one way or another.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. (Vermeer and the Art of Painting, 1995), who is one of the most prolific writers on Vermeer, offers numerous insights linking painting techniques and artistry. The catalogue of the historic Washington/The Hague Vermeer exhibition (Johannes Vermeer, 1998) also provides a wealth of valuable information. Wheelock's well-balanced interpretations are widely accepted.

Edward Snow (A Study of Vermeer,1994), who acknowledges the importance of Gowing's writings, takes a unique approach by utilizing many notions belonging to the field of psychology for his analysis. First published in 1979, Snow's study starts from a single premise: that we respond so intensely to Vermeer because his paintings reach so deeply into our lives. Our desire for images, the distances that separate us, the validations we seek from the still world, the traces of ghostliness in our own human presence; these, the book proposes, are Vermeer's themes, which he pursues with a realism always in touch with the uncanny. As Snow traces the many counterpoised sensations that make up Vermeer's equanimity, he leads us into a world of nuances and surprise. A Study of Vermeer is passionate and visual in its commitments. His discussions of Vermeer's paintings are conducted in a language of patient observation, and they involve the reader in an experience of deepening relationship and ongoing visual discovery. Extremely enlightening.

Ivan Gaskell's essay, "Vermeer and the Limits of Interpretation" (Vermeer Studies, 1998), considers various forms of interpretation possible in Vermeer's painting. After defining three manners of interpretation, Gaskell illustrates his own, taking Woman Standing at a Virginal as a springboard. Vermeer's Wager (2000) by the same author also provides many interesting considerations dealing with both Vermeer's painting and the context in which we understand a work of art.

Vermeer and the Invention of Seeing (2001) by Bryan Jay Wolf, is written in the same tradition as Edward Snow's classic. The book begins with a basic premise: not only are Vermeer's paintings beautiful; they are also very strange. Wolf attempts to place Vermeer in the context of his culture in order to explain that strangeness. The result makes for sometimes difficult reading, yet ultimately rewards the reader with provocative insights.

Another important volume is Vermeer: The Complete Works (2017), by Karl Schütz, which brings together a complete catalogue of Vermeer, presenting the calm yet compelling scenes within one monograph of utmost reproduction quality, that features new photography of many works. Numerous details emphasize the artist’s remarkable ability not only to bear witness to the trends and trimmings of the Dutch Golden Age but also to encapsulate an entire story in just one transient gesture, expression, or look.

other sources:

  • Arasse, Daniel. Vermeer, Faith in Painting, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993.
  • Georgievska-Shine, Aneta, and Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer and the Art of Love. London, UK: Lund Humphries, 2022.
  • Huerta, Robert D.The Natural Philosophers: The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery. Bucknell University Press, 2003.
  • Huerta, Robert D. Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2005.
  • Koja, Stephan, and Uta Neidhardt. Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection. Dresden: Sandstein Verlag, 2021.
  • Peeters, Harry. "Vermeer and his Work. A View," in Dutch Society in the Age of Vermeer, Waanders Publishers, The Hague, Zwolle, 1996.
  • Pops, Martin. Vermeer: Consciousness and the Chamber of Being, UMI, Ann Arbor, 1984.
  • Thoré-Bürger. "Van der Meer de Delft." Gazette des Beaux Arts, Oct. 1, 1866 - pp. 297–330 - Nov. 1, 1866 - pp. 458–470 - Dec. 1, 1866 - pp. 542–575.
  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.
  • Salomon, Nanette. "Vermeer and the Balance of Destiny." In Essays in Northern European Art Presented to Egbert Havenkamp-Begemann on His Sixtieth Birthday, Davoc Publishers, 1983.
  • Weber, Gregor J.M. Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers, 2023.
  • Wheelock Jr., Arthur K., and Ben Broos. Johannes Vermeer. London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Artistic Development

Most existing monographs on Vermeer discuss at least briefly Vermeer's scarcely documented artistic development. One of the most penetrating is Vermeer (1952 and 1970) by Lawrence Gowing. Other very interesting insights can be found in "Genre Painting in Delft after 1650: De Hoogh and Vermeer" in Vermeer and the Delft School, (2001) by Walter Liedtke.

other sources:

  • Arasse, Daniel. Vermeer, Faith in Painting, translated by T. Grabar, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
  • Blankert, Albert. "Vermeer's Modern Themes and Their Traditions," in exh. cat. Johannes Vermeer, edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Ben Broos. London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Liedtke, Walter. "Vermeer Teaching Himself," in The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer (Cambridge Companions to the History of Art), edited by Wayne, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Koja, Stephan, and Uta Neidhardt. Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection. Dresden: Sandstein Verlag, 2021.
  • Nash, J.M. "To finde the Mindes construction in the Face," in Vermeer Studies, edited by I. Gaskell and M. Jonker, pp. 59-65. Washington and New Haven; Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.
  • Slatkes, Leonard J. "Utrecht and Delft: Vermeer and Caravaggism," in Vermeer Studies, edited by I. Gaskell and M. Jonker, pp. 81-91. Washington, D.C., 1998.
  • Weber, Gregor J.M. Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers, 2023.


Although many scholars have studied Vermeer's life, the most comprehensive work by far is Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (1989) by John Montias. Montias has examined every surviving historical document regarding Vermeer and his milieu and has constructed a meticulously detailed picture of artist's personal life and his dealings with the artistic environment of Delft. This book has superseded all other studies and is now considered the foundation on which all further research on the artist's life is based.

Anthony Bailey, in excellent prose, sums up much of what had been hitherto discovered in a very readable "biography" of Vermeer in, Vermeer: A View of Delft (2001).

A brief but pertinent essay by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. in Johannes Vermeer (1996) can also be read with profit.

other sources:

  • Franits, Wayne. The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer (Cambridge Companions to the History of Art), Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Liedtke, Walter. "Genre Painting in Delft after 1650: De Hoogh and Vermeer," in Vermeer and the Delft School, edited by Walter Liedtke, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001.
  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.
  • Weber, Gregor J.M. Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers, 2023.
  • Wheelock Jr., Arthur K. Vermeer:The Complete Works, New York: Abrams, 1997.

Camera Obscura

In 1891, the photographer Joseph Pennell was the first to suppose that Vermeer might have employed the aid of an optical device to his painting. Charles Seymour ("Dark Chamber in a Light Filled Room," Art Bulletin 46, 1964) put to the test the hypothesis that Vermeer had used the camera obscura by observing through a real 19th-century camera obscura objects in lighting conditions similar to the ones found in Vermeer's paintings. The quality of the images produced by the camera was very similar to some found in the artist's works..

By far the most exhaustive techncial investigation regarding Vermeer and the camera obscura, and also the most disputed, is Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces (2001) by Philip Steadman. It is essential reading for anyone interested not only in Vermeer's working methods but also in the artist himself. Steadman's Vermeer's Camera by Steadman is an excellent web site with fascinating material by the same author.

In a recent study by Gregor Weber (Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection, 2023), the authro shows how the camera obscura played a significant role in Vermeer's artistic approach, due to its prominence in Jesuit teachings about religious instruction through painting. Weber suggests that Vermeer might have come into contact with the device through local Jesuits and speculates that he may have even acquired a camera obscura from Isaac van der Mye after Mye's death in 1656.Weber contends that Vermeer's focus on optical effects in his art seems influenced by Jesuit thought and, perhaps, specific Jesuit treatise on optics.

Jean-Luc Delsau' s essay "The Camera Obscura and the Painting in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" (Vermeer Studies, 1998), takes an in-depth look at the history of the camera's use in painting.

The Magic Mirror of Life: An Appreciation of the Obscura Room by Jack and Beverly Wilgus is an informative website that deals with both the camera obscura room, which Vermeer may have been familiar with, and the mobile type that Vermeer most likely used.

other sources:

  • Delsault, Jean-Luc. "The Camera Obscura and the Painting in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries." In Vermeer Studies, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Fink, Daniel A. "Vermeer's Use of the Camera Obscura: A Comparative Study." The Art Bulletin 53 (1971).
  • Gowing, Lawrence. Vermeer. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Hammond, John H. The Camera Obscura: A Chronicle. Bristol: Hilger, 1981.
  • Hammond, John H. and Jill Austin. The Camera Lucida in Art and Science. Bristol: Hilger, 1987.
  • Helden, Anne van. "Camera Obscura." In The Scholarly World of Vermeer. Zwolle: Waanders, 1996.
  • Hockney, David. Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. New York: Avery, 2001.
  • Huerta, Robert. The Natural Philosophers: The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery. Bucknell University Press, 2003.
  • "Inside the Camera Obscura–Optics and Art under the Spell of the Projected Image." Edited by Wolfgang Lefèvre, 2007. www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/Preprints/P333.PDF
  • Hyatt, Mayor A. "The Photographic Eye." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, new series, vol. 1 (1946): 15–26.
  • Janson, Jonathan. "Vermeer and the Camera Obscura." Essential Vermeer. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  • Jelly, Jane. "From Perception to Paint: the practical use of the Camera Obscura in the time of Vermeer." Art and Perception, July 2013.
  • Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
  • Mills, A. A., and M. L. Jones. "Three lenses by Constantijn Huygens in the possession of the Royal Society of London." Annals of Science 46 (1989): 173–182.
  • Mills, A. A. "Vermeer and the camera obscura: some practical considerations." Leonardo, vol. 31, no. 3 (1998): 213–218.
  • Lindberg, D. C. "The theory of pinhole images from antiquity to the thirteenth century." Archive for History of Exact Sciences, vol. 5 (1968): 154–176.
  • Pennell, Joseph. "Photography as a hindrance and a help to art." British Journal of Photography, no. 1618, vol. XXXVIII (1891): 294–296.
  • Schwartz, Heinrick. "Vermeer and the Camera Obscura." Pantheon 24, 1966.
  • Steadman, Philip. Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Wadum, Jørgen. "Vermeer in Perspective." In Johannes Vermeer, edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Ben Broos. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press, 1995. 67–79.
  • Waterhouse, J. "Notes on the early history of the camera obscura." The Photographic Journal, vol. XXXV (May, 1901): 270–290.
  • Weber, Gregor J.M. Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers, 2023.
  • Wheelock, Arthur K. Jr. "Perspective, Optics and Delft Artists Around 1650." Garland, New York, 1977.


Vermeer's compositions have probably not been studied sufficiently. An overall comparative analysis would make a major contribution towards the understanding of one of the artist's fundamental vehicles of expression.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., noted Vermeer expert, has investigated the intricacies of Vermeer's compositions in both Vermeer and the Art of Painting (1995) and the catalogue entries of the Washington/The Hague Vermeer exhibition, Johannes Vermeer (1998).

other sources:


A brief technical analysis of each painting exhibited in the monumental Vermeer exhibition Washington/The Hague, 1995–1996 can be found in the catalogue, Johannes Vermeer, (1995).

Vermeer Illuminated: Conservation, Restoration and Research (1995), edited by Jørgen Wadum, provides an in-depth look at the restoration of two Vermeer's in the Mauritshuis, View of Delft and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

other sources:


Although few actual garments survive from Vermeer's time, Marieke de Winkel's essay "The Interpretation of Dress in Vermeer' s Painting," (Vermeer Studies, 1998), analyzes their significance with the aid of accurately costumed dolls from seventeenth-century dollhouses. Another source that examines clothing and objects commonly seen in Dutch seventeenth-century genre paintings is Bianca M. Du Mortier's "Costumes in Gabriel Metu's Paintings; Mode and Manner in Mid-Seventeenth Century," (Gabriel Metsu, 2010).

Delft Blue Faience

Delft Blue Faience, commonly known as Delftware, is a type of blue-and-white pottery that originated in the seventeenth century in Delft, Netherlands. Inspired by expensive imported Chinese porcelain, Dutch artisans aimed to create an affordable local alternative. During the time of Johannes Vermeer, Delft was a major center for the production of this popular pottery, which was not only prevalent in the Netherlands but also widely exported. The iconic blue-and-white pieces even appear in some of Vermeer's paintings, reflecting their cultural significance in seventeenth-century Dutch society.

Delft workshops have become widely known throughout the world for their unique style and quality of porcelain. During Vermeer's lifetime, Delft workshops produced only baseboard tiles, which protected the whitewashed walls against daily mopping. These tiles can be seen in many of Vermeer's paintings. Dr. Kees Kaldenbach's website is certainly one of the most insightful available. He provides a number of interesting documents as well as a map of all the faience workshops in Delft. The most focused study of the impact of imported Oriental ceramics in Vermeer's work is in "Vermeer’s Jar" (2023) by Christina An and Fitski Menno.

other sources:

  • An, Christina, and Menno Fitski. 2023. " Vermeer’s Jar." The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 71 (2):100-107, 2023.
  • van Aken-Fehmers, "Porceleijn-backers vande Delsche porceleijn," in Delfts aardewerk: geschiedenis van een nationaal product, Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 1999.
  • van Aken-Fehmers, and Suzanne M.R. Lambooy. Het Wonder van Delfts Blauw (Delftware Wonderware). The Hague: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 2012.
  • van Dam, Jan Daniél. Delffse Porceleyne: Dutch Delfiware 1620-1850. Amsterdam, 2004.
  • Eligns, Titus MM., ed. "White Delft: Not Just Blue." Vol. 5 of Dutch Delftware: History of a National Product. Zwolle: The Hague, 2013.
  • Jörg, C. J. A. Fine & Curious: Japanese Export Porcelain in Dutch Collections. Amsterdam: Hotei, 2003.
  • Weststeijn, Thijs. "Cultural Reflections on Porcelain in the 17th-Century Netherlands." In Chinese and Japanese Porcelain for the Dutch Golden Age, edited by Jan van Campen and Titus Eliéns, The Hague Groningen Leeuwarden: Waanders Uitgevers, 2014.

False Attributions & Fakes

Ben Broos' essay, "Vermeer: Malice and Misconception" (Vermeer Studies, 1998), outlines the problems of erroneous attributions and fakes since Vermeer's rediscovery in the 1850s. He also casts serious doubts on the most recent attribution of the Saint Praxedis by one of the foremost Vermeer scholars, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

The fascinating post-World War II forgery case had international repercussions on both Vermeer scholarship and art scholarship in general. The case has been thoroughly by Jonathan Lopez in his finely researched and richly detailed The Man Who Made Vermeers (2009). Also interesting is "Vermeer: Erroneous Attributions and Forgeries" in Essential Vermeer by Jonathan Janson.

other sources:

Genre Painting

"Genre" is a French term used to describe a type of subject matter of every day life. In the past decades, there has been a concerted effort to place Vermeer's painting within the context of mid-seventeenth century genre painting. Two important exhibitions, Vermeer and the Delft School (view catalogue online) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vermeer and the Dutch Interior in Madrid (2003) were organized with this intent.

Vermeer and the Delft School, edited by Walter Liedtke, is indispensable reading for those wishing to understand Vermeer's painting within the context of the local Delft tradition.

However, the best single publication which covers Dutch genre painting at large is Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution by Wayne Franits. Franits, a well-known scholar of Dutch painting, offers a wealth of information about these works as well as about seventeenth-century Dutch culture, its predilections and its prejudices. The author approaches genre paintings from a variety of perspectives, examining their reception among contemporary audiences and setting the works in their political, cultural, and economic contexts. The works emerge as distinctly conventional images, Franits shows, as genre artists continually replicated specific styles, motifs, and a surprisingly restricted number of themes over the course of several generations. Luxuriously illustrated and with a full representation of the major artists and the cities where genre painting flourished, this book will delight students, scholars, and general readers alike.

other sources:


In recent decades, scholarly research has strongly favored iconographic and technical analytical approaches to Vermeer's painting. Both methods are, at least in theory, more objective than the intuitive approach exemplified by Lawrence Gowing (Vermeer, 1952 and 1970), and Edward Snow (A Study of Vermeer, 1994). However, some scholars have begun to feel that the margins for further iconographic interpretation are slim.

There is no measure for the number of iconographic studies of Vermeer's paintings. Snow's Vermeer (1994), and Blankert's "Vermeer's Modern Themes and Their Tradition" (in Johannes Vermeer, 1995) provide excellent starting points.

other resources:

Historical Documentation & Dutch History

Very likely, every surviving historical document regarding Vermeer and his extended family is analyzed in Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (1989) by John Montias Documents that came to light after this book was published are discussed by the same author in "Recent Archival Research on Vermeer," (Vermeer Studies, 1998).

other sources:

  • Alpers, Svetlana.The Art Market in the Age of Vermeer.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
  • Haks, D., and M. C. van der Sman. "The Art Market in the Age of Vermeer." In Dutch Society in the Age of Vermeer. Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 1996.
  • Montias, John. "Vermeer's Clients and Patrons." Art Bulletin 69 (1987).
  • Montias, John. "A Postscript to Vermeer and His Milieu." Mercury 12 (1991).
  • Montias, John. "https://www.jstor.org/stable/42710972." Oud Holland 91 (1977).
  • Van Maarseveen, M. P. Vermeer and Delft: His Life and His Times. 1996.
  • North, Michael. Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age. Cambridge: Yale University Press; , 1997.
  • Sutton, Peter C., Lisa Vergara, Ann Jensen Adams. Love Letters: Dutch Genre Paintings in the Age of Vermeer. London: Frances Lincoln, 2003.

Maps & Globes

Rozemarijn Landsman's recent book about Vermeer's maps is the most exhaustive published (Vermeer's Maps, 2022 ).

other sources:

Music & Musical Instruments

Painting Technique

The scientific examination of Vermeer's painting methods and techniques is probably still at its earliest stages. As of yet, no systematic research has been conducted on Vermeer's paintings even though there are only 35 (36?) in all. However, various aspects of his technique have been closely examined in a number of in-depth studies.

One of the first detailed accounts of Vermeer's painting technique can be found in P.T.A. Swillens' Johannes Vermeer, painter of Delft, 1632–1675, which is by now very difficult to find. The best all-around study is certainly Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.'s (1995) which discusses many facets of Vermeer's painting technique and the relationship they have with artistic expression. Rembrandt: The Painter at Work (2009) by Ernst van de Wetering, deals not only with Rembrandt's painting technique but that of Dutch seventeenth-century painters in general but it should nonetheless be considered essential reading for those interested in Vermeer's technique.

However, the most comprehensive invesigation of Vereemer's painting materials and methods is Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder Seventeenth-Century Painting Techniques and Studio Practices with Particular Focus on the Work of Johannes Vermeer (second edition; 2020), by Jonathan Janson, author of the Essential Vermeer website.

other sources:

  • Ainsworth, Maryn Wynn. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of the Paintings of Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer, 1993.
  • Costaras, Nicola. "A Study of the Materials and Techniques of Johannes Vermeer." In Vermeer Studies, edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Ben Broos. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Groen, Karin M., Inez D. van der Werf, Klaas Jan van den Berg, Jaap J. Boon. "Scientific Examination of Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring.'" In Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Gifford, E. Melanie. "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique." In Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Kühn, Herman. "A Study of the Pigments and the Grounds Used by Jan Vermeer." Reports and Studies in the History of Art 2, 1968.
  • Levy-van Halm, Koos. "Where did Vermeer Buy His Painting Materials? Theory and Practice." In Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Wadum, Jørgen. "Contours of Vermeer." In Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Wadum, Jørgen. "Vermeer's Use of Perspective, Historic Painting Techniques, Materials and Studio Practice." Preprints of a Symposium Held at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 1995.
  • Wald, Robert. "The Art of Painting. Observations on Approach and Technique." In Vermeer: Die Malkunst. St. Pölten: Residenz, 2010.
  • Wheelock Jr., Arthur J. "Pentimenti in Vermeer's painting: Changes in Style and Meaning." Hollandische Genremalerei im 17. Symposium Berlin, 1984.


Vermeer is renowned for his exceptional use of perspective in his compositions. He employed linear perspective, vanishing points,distancepoints and single-point perspective to create a three-dimensional illusion on a two-dimensional canvas. His meticulous attention to detail, combined with his mastery of light and shadow, allowed him to craft realistic scenes that engage viewers directly.


Many so-called "pictures-within-a-picture" are found in the interiors by Vermeer as well as many of his contemporaries. Gregor J. M. Weber has shed new light on Vermeer's way of deepening pictorial meaning through in his fascinating essay "Vermeer's Use of the Picture-within-a-Picture: A New Approach," (1998). Weber also discusses the painting (Caritas Romana) which hangs on the far right of the background wall in The Music Lesson ( "Ein neu entdecktes Bild im Bild von Johannes Vermeer," Weltkunst 70, 2000).

Another very interesting study of Vermeer's use of paintings-within-paintings can be found online in a very interesting article by Gregor J. M. Weber at the Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder web site.

other sources:

  • Goodman, Elise. "The Landscape of the Wall in Vermeer." In The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer, 2001.
  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.
  • Weber, Gregor. "Pieter Jansz. van Asch und das Problem der Abbildungsttreue." Oud Holland 108 (1994).
  • Weber, Gregor. "Caritas Romana incorporated by Vermeer in The Music Lesson." Weltkunst 70, no. 2 (February 2000).


Although there exists no documentary proof, it is a generally accepted by most Vermeer scholars that the artist converted to Catholicism when he married Catharina Bolnes, daughter. John Montias provides substantial evidence of its validity in Vermeer and His Milieu. A Web of Social History (1989).

Nut by far the most exhaustive study is that of Gregor Weber (Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection, 2023) which exceeds all other studies in breadth and depth.

Various aspects of Vermeer's presumed conversion the significance of religious conversion in Dutch society are amply explored in an essay by Valerie Hedquist, "Religion in the Art and Life of Vermeer" (The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer, 2001). The impact Catholicism upon Vermeer's painting is also discussed.

Also informative are the web studies "Catholicism, Delft & Vermeer," (Essential Vermeer) and "Vermeer's marriage in Schipluiden," (Essential Vermeer) by Adelheid Rech.

other sources:


  • Paul Abels, "Church and Religion in the Life of Vermeer," in Dutch Society in the Age of Vermeer. Zwolle, Waanders Publishers, 1996.
  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.
  • Weber, Gregor J.M. Johannes Vermeer: Faith, Light and Reflection. Rotterdam: nai010 Publishers, 2023.

Rediscovery & Thorè- Bürger

Recent research has shed much light on Vermeer's artistic reputation both before and after his rediscovery in the 1850s by Thorè- Bürger (Thèophile Thorè 1807–1869). His article "Van der Meer de Delft"(Gazette des Beaux-Arts 21, 1886) founded the basis for further Vermeer studies.


Thorè- Bürger
GAZETTE DES BEAUX ARTS, Oct. 1, Nov. 1, Dec. 1 1866


3 articles of Van der Meer de Delft
Oct. 1, 1866 - pp. 297–330
Nov. 1, 1866 - pp. 458–470
Dec. 1, 1866 - pp. 542–575

  • Frances Suzman Jowell. "Vermeer and Thorè-Bürger: Recoveries of Reputation," in Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Frances Suzman Jowell, "Thorè-Bürger and the art of the past," 1977.
  • Frances Suzman Jowell, "Thorè-Bürger's art collection: a rather unusual gallery of bric-à-brac," Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, 2003.
  • Frances Suzman Jowell, "Thorè-Bürger- A Critical Role in the Art Market," Burlington Magazine, 1996.
  • Frances Suzman Jowell, "Thorè-Bürger and Vermeer: Critical and Commercial Fortunes," in Shop Talk: Studies in Honour of Seymour Slive, 1995.
  • Ben Broos, "Vermeer: Malice and Misconception," in Vermeer Studies, 1998.
  • Ben Broos, "'A celebre Peijntre nommé Vermer[e],'" in Johannes Vermeer, 1995.
  • Albert Blankert, "Théophile Thoré and appreciation in the nineteenth century," in Vermeer of Delft: Complete Edition of the Paintings, 1978.
  • John Nash, "Rediscovery," in Vermeer, 1991.

Science & Scientific Instruments

Several of Vermeer's paintings often feature scientific instruments and themes, reflecting the era's curiosity and advancements in science. Notable works like The Astronomer and The Geographer depict scholars surrounded by instruments and texts related to astronomy and cartography, respectively. Additionally, Vermeer's use of light and perspective has led some to speculate that he may have been familiar with the camera obscura, an optical device of the time. These elements in Vermeer's work offer insights into the intellectual and scientific climate of seventeenth-century Holland.

  • van Berkel, Klaas.The Scholarly World of Vermeer. Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 1996.
  • van Berkel, Klaas. "Johannes Vermeer and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek," in the exhibition catalogue, Johannes Vermeer; Der Geograph und Der Astronom nach 200 Jaren wieder vereint, 1997.
  • Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
  • Landsman, Rozemarijn. Vermeer's Maps. New York,: Frick Collection, Published in association with DelMonico Books, 2022.
  • van Berkel, Klaas."Vermeer and the Representation of Science," in The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer (Cambridge Companions to the History of Art). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Per-Olov Elovosson, "The Geographer's Heart: A Study of Vermeer's Scientists," Konsthistorisk Tidskrift 60, 1991.

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Perspective Boxes (Peep Shows)

Perspective boxes, or "peep shows" as they are sometimes referred to, are one of the unique results of the obsessive pursuit of realism by seventeenth-century Dutch painters. These singular constructions consist of a closed wooden box painted on the inside with an illusionistic scene of a church or domestic interior. The illusion is enforced on the viewer by the fact of monocular vision—with one eye it is impossible to judge the scale and depth—and by arranging the perspective construction of the different panels so that they coincide at the single point of the peephole. An amazing illusion of depth is produced. Only a few of these devices have survived.

other sources:

  • Bomford, David. "Perspective, Anamorphosis and Illusion: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Peeps Shows," in Vermeer Studies. Washington and New Haven; Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Jensen, Claus. "Perspektivkasser og matematik" (Perspective Boxes and Mathematics), in Matilde (in Danish), 2004. An electronic version is available at: http://www.matilde.mathematics.dk/arkiv/M19/perspektivkasse_ny.pdf
  • Koslow, S. "De wonderlijke Perspectyfkas." An Aspect of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting, Oud Holland, 1967.

School of Delft

The term "School of Delft" is often used to describe a group of artists working in the Dutch city of Delft during the seventeenth century. However, it's important to note that this wasn't a formal school or institution, but rather a way to categorize artists with similar stylistic traits and subject matter who were active in or around the same geographic location. Vermeer is probably the most famous painter associated with this "school," although his works were not numerous. Other notable artists include Carel Fabritius, Pieter de Hooch, and Jan Steen, who, although more closely associated with the city of Leiden, also spent time in Delft.

The origin and nature of the School of Delft as well as Vermeer's role in it, have long been debated. The opulent exhibition catalogue by Walter Liedtke for the exhibition held in New York and London (Vermeer and the Delft School, 2000), now constitutes the most complete resource in regards. Also useful are A View of Delft: Vermeer and his Contemporaries by Walter Liedtke and Peter Sutton, Vermeer and the Delft Style, 2008.

other sources:


Considering the fact that Vermeer represented thirty-nine women in his interiors, it is not surprising that much Vermeer research centers around the role they play in his art. A great part of Lawrence Gowing's (Vermeer, 1952 and 1970) penetrating book is dedicated to the personal woman-painter relationship and of the supreme importance he invests in them as expressive vehicles.

Lisa Vergara's "Perspective of Woman in the Art of Vermeer" (The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer (Cambridge Companions to the History of Art), 2001) is an exceptionally fine essay. She takes on the enormous subject of Vermeer's women, which involves every aspect of his production, from professional aspirations to personal predilections, from broad cultural norms to private meditations, from mundane working conditions to exquisite pictorial adjustments. Vergara links the dominance of women in Vermeer's work to his private circumstances, the desires of his elite patrons, and the Dutch construction of femininity. She focuses specifically on just three pictures: The Art of Painting, Woman Holding a Balance, and The Music Lesson.

other sources:

  • Jonker, M. "From Sexuality to Civility: Vermeer's Women," in Vermeer Studies. Washington and New Haven; Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Snow, Edward. A Study of Vermeer. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Van Meegeren Case

The fascinating post-World War II forgery case had international repercussions not only regarding Vermeer scholarship, but art scholarship in general. The case has recently been brought up again by Jonathan Lopez in his finely researched and richly detailed The Man Who Made Vermeers. One may also access an online article by Lopez at: Van Meegeren's Early Vermeers.

other sources:

  • Bredius, Abraham."A New Vermeer," Burlington Magazine 71 (November 1937).
  • Bredius, Abraham. "An Unpublished Vermeer," Burlington Magazine 61 (October 1932).
  • Coremans, P.B. Van Meegeren's Faked Vermeers and de Hooghs. Cassell; J.M. Meulenhoff, London, Amsterdam,1949.
  • Dolnick, Edward. The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century. New York; Harper, 2009.
  • Godley, John. Van Meegeren, Master Forger. Boston: Miffen, 1967.
  • Janson, Jonathan. "Frans van Meegeren." Essential Vermeer. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  • Jones, Mark P., T. Craddock, Nicolas Barker. Fake?: The Art of Deception. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
    Lammertse, Friso, Nadja Garthoff, Michel van de Laar and Arie Wallert. Van Meegeren's Vermeers: The Connoisseur's Eye and the Forger's Art. Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2011.
  • Lopez, Jonathan. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren.  Orlando: Harcourt, 2008.
  • Ragai, Jehane. The Scientist and the Forger: Insights into the Scientific Detection of Forgery in Paintings, 2015.
  • Tietze Hans. 1948. Genuine and False; Copies Imitations [and] Forgeries. New York: Chanticleer Press, 1948.
  • Werness, Hope B. "Han van Meegeren fecit," in Denis Dutton, ed., The Forger's Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art, 1983.
  • Wynn, Frank. I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth-Century's Greatest Forger. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Vermeer's Delft

The significance of Delft in Vermeer's life and work is immeasurable. Born and raised in this vibrant cultural and commercial hub in the Southern Netherlands, Vermeer spent his entire artistic career in Delft, where he also drew his last breath. The city deeply influenced his oeuvre, from the intimate interiors he meticulously painted to the techniques he may have employed. His masterpiece, View of Delft, is a visual tribute to the city, while The Little Street serves as a poetic homage to its inhabitants.

Vermeer was not just a resident but an active member of the local artistic community. He belonged to the Guild of Saint Luke and even role to the role of dean twice, affirming his prominence among Delft's artists. Additionally, historical records like the Schuttersboek from 1674 indicate that Vermeer also engaged in civic duties, being listed as a member of the first squadron of the Orange Company in Delft's Civic Guard.

Although there is an extensive body of literature exploring seventeenth-century Delft and Vermeer's relationship to it, three works are particularly noteworthy. The first is Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (1989) by John Michael Montias, which delves into the social and historical context of Vermeer's life. The second notable work is Vermeer and the Delft School (2001), edited by Walter Liedtke, offering a comprehensive look at the artistic community in Delft and Vermeer's role within it. Most recently, Vermeer's Delft (2023) by David de Haan stands out for its compilation of the latest archival research, providing fresh insights into Vermeer's connection with his hometown. These three publications serve as invaluable resources for understanding the profound influence of Delft on Vermeer's work and life.

One of the most insightful resources about Delft is the website "Behind the Facades of Delft," which features a rich collection of over 200 articles about historic houses in Delft and their past residents.The working group Achter de Gevels, formed in 2006, is dedicated to investigating the histories of various residences in Delft and its nearby areas. They hold monthly meetings in the study hall of the Delft City Archives, where they utilize a wealth of resources that span over five kilometers of archives, a library, and an extensive collection of visual materials. The team also takes advantage of numerous digital research capabilities. The research is under the guidance of Kees van der Wiel, a historian and an expert in house research, as well as George Buzing, a former employee of the Delft Archives. The final editing of the website is managed by Kees van der Wiel and Els Kemper, while Jenny Omvlee serves as the webmaster. Since 2017, their work has been conducted under the umbrella of the historical association Delfia Batavorum, which has included them in a committee specifically focused on the history behind the facades of Delft homes. The committee's board consists of Ignatz de Schepper as the Chairman, Astrid Keers as the Secretary, and other members including George Buzing, Els Kemper, Henriëtte Welle Donker, and Kees van der Wiel. These articles, which are authored by a diverse group of contributors including homeowners, archivists, and other researchers who delve into archival records to uncover the stories of former owners and occupants. The website provides a comprehensive look at life in seventeenth-century Delft, capturing a wide range of experiences—from uplifting and humorous anecdotes to the more somber realities of illness, child mortality, illiteracy, and economic downturn.

Another important resourse is the " Delft Timeline: 1037-1683" (2022), by Jonathan Janson.

other sources:

Vermeer's Living Quarters

Over the years, it has been widely accepted in art history literature that Vermeer and his family lived in the large Serpent house in Delft, on the corner of Oude Langendijk and Molenpoortsteeg. This belief was primarily based on archived data suggesting the building was owned by a relative of Vermeer’s mother-in-law, Maria Thins. However, recent archival research by Hans G. Slager (Johannes Vermeer and his Neighbours, 2027) has challenged this long-standing assumption. Slager's meticulous analysis, which included re-analyzing old data and adding new details, suggests that Vermeer’s family actually resided in a smaller house on the opposite corner, known as Trapmolen.

In "Modestly Masterful: VERMEER" (2023), Pieter Roelofs gives an extensive account of the house in which Vermeer lived and worked, via a meticulous analysis of the inventory of the artist's estate compiled in February 1676, a couple of months after his death.

An exhibition at the Rijksmuseum presented Frans Grijzenhouts' theory about the location of the scene shown by Johannes Vermeer in The Little Street. Grijzenhout proposed that the painting shows what are today Numbers 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat in Delft. Grijzenhout's idea is based on measurements found in the "Legger van het diepen der wateren binnen de stadt Delft" [Ledger of the dredging of canals in the town of Delft], a document compiled from 1666 onwards recording the widths of house frontages for tax purposes.

The London architect and author of the influential book "Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces," Philip Steadman, debates Grijzenhout's hypothesis in his detailed essay, "A More Credible Detective Story."

other sources:

  • Roelofs, Pieter, and Weber, Gregor. VERMEER. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2023.


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