Thursday, February 22, 2007

Vermeer's Work as Tribute to Mary and Martha

I am wondering if Jan Vermeer's works were in part a tribute to both Mary and Martha, as he celebrates both the active and contemplative life. What I like about his Christ in the House of Mary and Martha is that the arrangement of Mary and Martha with Christ form a triangle. Unlike many other paintings of the visit of Christ to the home of Mary and Martha, Martha is not a smaller figure hidden in the kitchen. In Vermeer's interpretation she forms the apex of the triangle and offers bread to Christ, a symbol of the Eucharist. Uniquely, Vermeer seems to say that both Mary and Martha have something important to offer Christ and therefore the world. All of Vermeer's works are embued with a transforming, translucent light that seems to say that this is God's light--and love--in which all things are truly visible. The milkmaid below bathes in this light, as it makes everything about her shine. The light always comes from without, rather from within, and permeates the atmosphere almost as if we could touch it. But here are some of the most beloved works of this great 17th-century Dutch painter who converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, which seem to celebrate women's both active and contemplative activities.

The Milkmaid 1658-1660

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter 1662-1664

The Lacemaker 1665-1670

Lady Writing a Letter 1665-1670

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