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The Art of Painting,

by Johannes Vermeer

 

Approx. 1666-73
Oil on canvas
120 x 100 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

This self-portrait of the artist painting a model is, without doubt, the most ambitious work in Vermeer's not very abundant output, due to both its size and to its unique composition, as well as its allegorical content. As in the rest of his work, it is permeated by Vermeer's gentle lyricism, whose secret, however, always eludes us.

 

Perhaps it resides in that intimate light which imperceptibly dissolves the contours of the objects depicted, without depriving them of their attractive clarity.

 

Or is it simply that Vermeer puts us under the spell in this, as in all his other paintings, because he is the only artist prior to Impressionism truly able to turn his works into open windows, not only onto the present moment, in all its apparent transience, but also onto the eternal that is hidden behind it?