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January 2007

Johannes Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2007;9(1):72. doi:10.1001/archfaci.9.1.72

Johannes Vermeer, one of the most celebrated Dutch painters of the 17th century, lived and worked in the city of Delft and is sometimes referred to as a leader of the Delft school of painting. Although Delft had no formal art academy, the term school is sometimes used to describe the cadre of Delft painters that included Carl Fabritius, Pieter de Hooch, and Leonard Bramer, who favored courtly genre scenes and whose works employed optical effects in staging their compositions. Vermeer cuts an enigmatic figure in the history of Dutch painting; he was born in Delft in 1632, the son of a local silk weaver and art dealer, and he died frenzied and bankrupt in his native city in 1675. One apparent cause of Vermeer's insolvency may have stemmed from his meticulous artistic technique, which apparently prevented him from producing the large volume of works generated by other artists, like Rembrandt and Rubens, whose open style and painterly execution facilitated the production of hundreds of paintings by their workshops. Today, only about 33 paintings can be firmly ascribed to Vermeer's hand, and it is doubtful that Vermeer produced many more during his lifetime. He had one principal patron, Pieter Claesz van Ruijvan, who favored Vermeer's famous domestic genre interiors and who probably commissioned Woman Holding a Balance (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), painted about 1664.Article