The Young Vermeer

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

‘The Procuress’

Oil on canvas, 143 x 130 cm

Conservation treatment in 2002-04 fundamentally improved the appearance of this painting (figs. 1 and 2). X-radiographs reveal that during the painting process Vermeer made a number of changes to the composition, something he had hardly done in his earlier two paintings.

Overall, he subtly intensified the contrasts between light and dark passages (fig. 3). The man on the left had a smaller beret which allowed for a vividly illuminated face. Most strikingly, the face of the man in red was not concealed by the shadow of his hat but also lit brightly. Moreover, his gaze was directed at the young woman who had a second coin in her open hand. In painting this out Vermeer intensified the women’s expectant attitude. By obscuring the suitor’s face he highlighted the dramatic tension between the protagonists.