Johannes Vermeer – Paintings That Celebrate Ordinary Life

Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who is acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

The Dutch Golden Age was a unique period in the history of the Netherlands spanning the era from 1581 to 1672 in which its political, economic, and cultural greatness were among the most powerful and influential in the world.

Dutch painting boasts some of history’s most outstanding painters including Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525-1569), Jan Steen (1626-1679), Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) and Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Each Dutch master had their own specialty showing off their unique skill and attention to detail.

Paintings of Daily Life

There are thirty-four paintings attributed to Johannes Vermeer depicting 17th-century, middle class, daily life with almost all his paintings set in two small rooms in his house in Delft showing the same furnishings and often portraying the same people.

At that time, the most prestigious cultural works emphasized aristocratic, military and religious lives such as the great Renaissance artists who produced magnificent paintings of Saints, Angels and kings, queens and aristocrats who were celebrated on the most beautiful canvasses.

Johannes Vermeer however, wanted to show ordinary life and daily activities is heroic in its own unique way like keeping a house tidy, sweeping the yard, babysitting, sewing or a kitchen maid – preparing lunch. These works are remarkable for their serene, timeless sense of dignity.

Vermeer wanted to depict through his paintings:

*a life rich in character

*ordinary life is worth celebrating.

These are the gifts of life that are rewarded and blessed by God.

Famous Paintings by Johannes Vermeer

The Little Street (1657-58)

The painting, “The Little Street” portrays a quiet street scene in Vermeer’s home town of Delft (famous for its Delft pottery and ceramic products). It depicts a woman sewing, kids playing and a woman busy in the yard.

It highlights typical life in Delft during the Dutch Golden Age and is exhibited at the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam.

The Little Street is one of only three Vermeer paintings of views of Delft, the others being View of Delft and the now lost House Standing in Delft.

This simple street scene has become one of the greatest paintings in the world.

The Lacemaker (1669-70)

Exhibited in the Louvre, Paris.

The painting depicts a tranquil setting of a young woman dressed in a yellow shawl and focused over her craftwork with bobbin lace and pin in hand.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665)

Known as the Mona Lisa of the North, it is exhibited at the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902 and is one of Vermeer’s most iconic paintings. The Dutch public consider it the most beautiful painting in the Netherlands.

The Milkmaid (1654-58)

The exact year of the Milk Maid painting is estimated as 1658 by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, it is a painting depicting a domestic kitchen maid pouring milk into a basin. The counter is littered with bread, the crusts and the maid’s glistening brow, are highlighted by the sunlight.

View of Delft (1659-1661)

The image depicts Vermeer’s hometown skyline and painted at a time when cityscapes were uncommon with the buildings moved ever so slightly, to make the city feel less cramped. The painting has been held in the Dutch Royal Cabinet of Paintings at the Mauritshuis in The Hague since its establishment in 1822.