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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

Vermeer is well-known for his creative work and his contribution in the development of visual art. Vermeer created a number of noteworthy works among which Woman Holding a Balance is one of the most interesting works. It should be said that this painting is particularly interesting because of its graphical representation, the skillful choice of color and the play of light and shadow. At the same time, the painting is interesting not only for specialists and real connoisseurs of art but also for an ordinary viewer, amateurs who simply appreciate art in its classical form. In order to better understand this work and the artist’s talent it is necessary to analyze it in details since in seemingly simple forms, the painter has hidden profound ideas which may be not evident at first glance.

The painter depicts a woman holding scales. She obviously waits when they balance out and then she will weigh something. In all probability, it will be gold coins or other jewels that may be seen on the table near the woman. In fact, it is possible to find a number of important details in the painting. For instance, on the background on the woman’s right, it is possible to see the painting of the Last Judgment, while on her left is a mirror. On looking at the woman’s face a viewer can see that she is calm and serene. The hand and finger of the woman, which do not just reflect the light from the window, but also radiate it and produce quite a strange effect.

The painter also uses the change of shade and light, forms, even gestures of the woman, which serve to enrich the painting and its inner sense. For instance, the scales in the hand of the woman, jewels and gold coins on the table and the painting of The Last Judgment play an extremely important role. Taken separately, they could hardly produce any particular effect but taken as a whole they reveal their symbolic meaning for a viewer. It is evident that here the painter represents two types of judgment: the human judgment that is considered to be exposed to mistakes and the supreme judgment of God that is thought as the most just and fair, according to European religious and moral tradition. It is symbolized by the scales and The Last Judgment because scales traditionally symbolize justice.

Furthermore, it may be interpreted like a contrast between human sinful life on the earth and divine ideals because all jewels and gold coins on the table are symbols of the vain human life and human striving for richness and material prosperity whereas The Last Judgment reminds that everything is vane and heavens serve as the salvation from the problems of the earthly life. On looking at the woman’s face, it is obvious that she really can live according to divine principles, judging from her calm and serene face. Moreover, this woman acquires certain characteristic of St Michael who, being hidden on the picture, weighs human souls. Also, on looking at the woman and the picture behind her, it seems as if she is a symbol of calm and peaceful life contrasted to the violent baroque agitation of The Last Judgment.

Other important details are the woman’s gestures and the distribution of shadow and light which produce the impression of something eternal and it may symbolize the truth itself that is limited neither in time nor in physical borders. Consequently, it exists not only on the earth but on the heaven as well. Also it is possible to divide the picture in two great parts inner and outer. The window serves as a border between these two worlds that differ from one another. Thus, it represents different viewpoints on one and the same thing from outside and from inside and it seems that the window is a place where both worlds intersect.

Finally, the Vermeer’s work Woman Holding a Balance is full of symbolism and allegory. It has a variety of themes and their meaning is not always clear and sometimes it is hidden deep inside that makes the painting very interesting to analyze and it is possible to find some new ideas even if a viewer looks at the painting for a tens or twentieth time. In such a way, the painting is thematically rich but what is more important is the visual representation of the artist’s ideas. In fact, the painting is not just a kind of message board with the help of which Vermeer conveys his ideas to the audience but it is also a very effective tool with the help of which the painter skillfully conveys his emotions and feelings. In this respect, the contrast between white, bright and dark colors create a particular mood and uncovers the internal emotional struggle the artist has passed through while creating this work, the struggle between positive and negative, good and bad emotions.

Obviously, the painter wanted to convey such eternal ideas as justice and truth. Also he wanted viewers to think of the contrast between earthly and divine life, between turbulence of outer world and calm and serene inner one. All this has been conveyed with the help of a masterful technique of painting, through the use of significant and symbolic details and a particular distribution of shade and light. Thus, it may be viewed as an excellent sample of the power of painter and his ability to convey his message to the viewer.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance represents a very interesting work which is particularly noteworthy due to its skillful and balanced design, masterful use of colors and wide use of symbols. As a result, the painting produces a positive impression on the audience as a piece of visual art in its classic form. At any rate, this work will be interesting for a wide range of viewers from critics and art specialists to ordinary amateurs.

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