Luci LaSombra Vermeer Gallery

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The Glass of Wine

Berlin, Gemdldegalerie

65x77 1658-60

A man swathed in darkness holds a pitcher of wine, while watching an elegantly dressed woman drink. She is wearing a silk dress with gold edging, and her face is partially hidden by her headscarf and by the glass itself, almost like a mask. The two have been playing music, a theme often associated with love. This is a subdued, careful painting of elegant people in an elegant room with a gold-framed landscape on the wall.

The room is in partial darkness because of curtains and shutters, and the most brightly illuminated parts of the painting is the carefully rendered window. In composition, it seems similar to the works of Vermeer's contemporary, Pieter de Hooch.

The window shows the arms of Jannetje Vogel, who married Vermeer's neighbor, Moses Nederveen. Surrounding the arms is the figure of a woman holding a horse's bridle in one hand, an image of temperance.

The window is identical to that in The Girl with the Wineglass, another exhortation of Temperance. According to Jacob Cats, a contemporary writer, women should be forbidden drink altogether, as alcohol was the first step towards whoring.

So it seems that a seduction is taking place, with wine as the lubricant. Could it be that the man is Vermeer, at least symbolically, and the woman is Jannetje, wife of his neighbor?


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