The Procuress (1656) by Jan Vermeer

The Procuress - Jan Vermeer - 1656

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Procuress
ArtistJan Vermeer
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions143 x 130 cm
Art MovementBaroque
Current LocationGemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

About The Procuress

The artwork entitled “The Procuress” was created by the Dutch artist Jan Vermeer in 1656. It is painted with oil on canvas and is an exemplar of the Baroque period. The artwork’s dimensions are quite substantial, measuring 143 by 130 centimeters. This genre painting is housed at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany.

“The Procuress” by Vermeer portrays a scene with four individuals, rich in narrative content and human interaction. Dominating the foreground to the right, a young woman in a yellow dress, white apron, and headdress clutches a coin pouch, her attention seemingly directed at a glass of wine she holds. Seated beside her and slightly behind is a man whose hand is suggestively placed on her chest, indicating the transactional nature of their engagement. To the left foreground, there is a smiling gentleman facing the viewer, holding a glass and wearing a hat with a bright cavalier’s feather, likely symbolizing the frivolity of the scene.

Behind the young woman is another woman, somewhat shadowed and dressed in black, wearing a headdress that obscures her eyes; she could represent the procuress, or a madam, facilitating the interaction between the young woman and the man beside her. Her expression is ambiguous, appearing both knowing and complicit.

The composition is dense and staged within a compact space, creating an intimate atmosphere. The Subjects are adorned in clothing of rich fabrics and colors, reflecting the sumptuous textures and fashion of the time. The inclusion of objects like the wine glass, carafe, and elaborate tapestry adds layers of meaning and aids in the storytelling.

The artist’s use of chiaroscuro—a technique prevalent in Baroque art—enhances the three-dimensionality of the figures and emphasizes the drama within the scene. The facial expressions and the gestures of the characters allow for an in-depth narrative reading, where each subject contributes to the unfolding story that centers on themes of lust, wealth, and social conduct.

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