The Young Vermeer

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

Diana and her Nymphs

It was at the beginning of his career that Vermeer painted this colourful mythological subject. The painting is only recognisable as one from classical mythology due to the woman in the yellow gown wearing a diadem with crescent moon — the attribute of Diana, goddess of the moon and the hunt. This is a picture of the goddess with her companions, one of whom washes her feet. This cleansing act alludes to Diana's chastity and Vermeer emphasises this by also including a basin and cloth.

The painting is thought to have been created soon after Vermeer had entered the painters' guild in 1653, thus becoming an independent painter allowed to sign and sell his own work. Despite his signature on the boulder at the lower left of the painting, discovered in 1885, art historians were at first hesitant to attribute the painting to Johannes Vermeer of Delft and suggested the rather obscure Utrecht-based artist Johannes van der Meer. This was partly because the subject matter is so unlike Vermeer's later output. However, the painting also shows elements typical of Vermeer: clothed figures and still-life details, a serene and balanced composition, and the interplay of light and colour.