The Procuress

This is Vermeer’s first genre painting and shows a scene of contemporary life, an image of mercenary love perhaps in a brothel. It differs from his earlier biblical and mythological scenes. It is one of only three paintings Vermeer signed and dated (the other two are The Astronomer and The Geographer).

It seems Vermeer was influenced by earlier works on the same subject by Gerard ter Borch, and The Procuress (c. 1622) by Dirck van Baburen, which was owned by Vermeer's mother-in-law Maria Thins and hung in her home.The woman in black, the leering coupler, "in a nun's costume", could be the eponymous procuress, while the man to her left, "wearing a black beret and a doublet with slashed sleeves", has been identified as a self portrait of the artist. Vermeer just juxtaposed a beer glass. There is a resemblance with the painter in Vermeer's The Art of Painting.

The man, a soldier, in the red jacket is fondling her breast and dropping a coin into the young woman's outstretched hand.According to Benjamin Binstock the painting could be understood as a psychological portrait of his adopted family.Vermeer is in the painting as a musician, in the employ of the madam. In his rather fictional book Binstock explains Vermeer used his family as models; the whore could be Vermeer's wife Catherina and the lewd soldier her brother Willem.

The three-dimensional jug on the oriental rug is a piece of Westerwald Pottery. The kelim thrown over a barrister, probably produced in Uşak, covers a third of the painting and showes medaillons and leaves. The instrument is probably a cittern. The dark coat with five buttons was added by Vermeer in a later stage.

In 1696 the painting, being sold on an auction in Amsterdam, was named "A merry company in a room". According to Binstock this "dark and gloomy" painting does not represent a didactic message.








Other Artists

  1. 1.William Shakespeare


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