Monday, January 4, 2010

Got up too late to make lunches AND write about Vermeer, so Vermeer had to wait. When he died in his forties he left 11 children - glad I'm not making those lunches. . .

I think it's intriguing when researchers are able to x-r
ay paintings and see what decisions artists made about what to add or eliminate. In A Woman Asleep (also called A Girl Asleep), although it's very hard to see, there once was a dog in the doorway on the right and a man in the back room. Vermeer decided to paint both of them out. Of course we'll never know why, but it seems that in many of his paintings, he liked to provide a few clues as to what the scene was, a letter arriving for instance, and then leave the rest of the narrative (there's a modern word) to the viewer's imagination. (Others have pointed out that he probably got the notion for this painting from a similarly-posed sleeping maid in a Rembrandt work. I have so far been unable to find a copy of that painting, but I'll keep working on it. - A few hours later, I came across Rembrandt's Girl Asleep at a Window.

I don't know, but it seems to me that A Woman Asleep is a tad more interesting without all the detail. We can see there is some sort of overturned goblet and that the table covering is bunched up. A big gathering to clean up after? Legitimately tired after hard work? Or shirking her duties after a few drinks? Critics have naturally noticed and commented on the cupids on the wall behind her. We don't know more and never will and that's what I like about it. What do you think?

P.S. Since another Vermeer, The Milkmaid, below, came to the Met in NY last fall, there's been a lot written about whether or not there is a good deal or just a little suggestiveness intended by Vermeer in his depiction of her. Click on the Met's link in this paragraph to read more.


  1. I agree with you about the details in the foreground (lovely as they are to behold). It's probably a commentary on sloth, or some related sin. Could this be the Rembrandt that inspired it?

    The x-ray looks a bit like a Rauschenberg!

  2. Actually I think I just found the Rembrandt - couldn't get the link to transfer to this comment area so I'll just add it to the blog above. The pose is almost identical to Vermeer's. And you're right, the x-ray does look kind of like a Rauschenberg. . .

  3. Yes, it's terribly suggestive. I expect it to show up in a Victoria's Secret catalog any day now.

    Seriously, not suggestive to me but absolutely lovely.