Sunday, August 23, 2009

Manhattan: Vermeer 's Allegory of Faith

Sunday seems like a fine day to highlight this particular Vermeer which was new to me.

I dont think of this Dutchman as a painter of religious works, but apparently he painted one.

Here's a link to the gallery label to help you locate all the meaningful items.

I love that Faith is using the world as her footstool!

Isaiah 66:1

Here's word of explanation copied from humanitiesweb:

You'd never know it from looking at his work, but Vermeer lived during turbulent times in Holland. Political and religious strife between Protestants
and Catholics in Holland was at a peak during the mid-1600s. Vermeer was born
and raised a staunch Protestant. But, much to the consternation of his parents
and friends, he fell in love with a Catholic girl, converted, and married her.
Even today, the saying goes that, "There is no more devout Catholic than a
Catholic convert." This was probably even more the case in Vermeer's troubled
time. His faith was important to him. That's why, when he was asked by his
church to paint an allegory of faith, he could neither refuse nor resist the
challenge, even though such a work was completely foreign to his artistic
background. This also accounts for the fact that his Allegory of the Faith,
painted in 1670, is easily his least satisfying, least successful work.

In many Protestant churches, pictures of Christ are forbidden (as graven images). Yet they abound as decoration and teaching tools. An enormous part of art history is church-related. So, while I fall squarely on the side against icons, I am not offended by Vermeer's rendition of the cruxification depicted in Allegory of Faith.

Side Note follows:

In my very short visit of Manhattan I am pleased to report that I regarded eight original Vermeers. I repeat: eight. There are only 35, all together.

So, three at the Frick.

And,  five at the Met.

Plus I've seen the ones at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

That's six more.

I am especially fond of the one with the woman holding the balance.

According to my travel diary, I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Holland, on June 18th 1978.

There are four there. That brings me up to 18!

I must have seen *The Milkmaid* because she's there.

(FYI she's visiting the Met in September.)

Then in Vienna at the Kunsthistoriches Museum around 4 July 1978, I could have seen The Artist's Studio.

Earlier that summer in London, I recorded visiting the National Gallery in London, which boasts two: Women at Virginals.

Now I can count having seen 21 of the 35.

Do you seek out artists/paintings like that?


  1. Well, as a matter of fact, I've made a habit of seeking out Vermeers as well. I don't know what number I'm on, but I've seen an awfully high percentage of them, and even gazed at many of them for extended periods of time. The light, the stable compositions, the yellow and blue color schemes--there are so many ways to like a Vermeer! And like you, I'm particularly fond of the woman with the balance.

    I'm really excited about the Milkmaid coming this fall. Now, just try to get anywhere near the thing!