The Young Vermeer

  • 8th December 2010 − 13th March 2011 | Scottish National Gallery (Scottish National Gallery) | Admission free

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

about 1654-55
Oil on canvas, 160 x 142 cm

This painting was conserved in 1994 (figs. 1 and 2). Due to its size – it is Vermeer’s largest work – it consists of two pieces of canvas sewn together vertically. The overall execution shows remarkable speed and fluidity. Vermeer has painted the highlights of the drapery and those on the arm rest in impasto. Numerous wet-in-wet touches can be identified in Martha’s waistband, the head dresses, and the carpet. Both features are rarely to be found in his mature work.

Only a few alterations can be seen with the naked eye, notably the finger on Christ’s left hand, or in x-radiographs. The latter indicate that Vermeer changed Christ’s profile, probably to emphasise that he lifts his head towards Martha while addressing her (fig 3).