The better the skill of letter writing, the finer the breeding. One is judged on the quality of their letter by its elegance, the words they choose and penmanship. Important to the art of letter writing is the selection of the proper stationery. Over the years acceptable stationery went from colored notepaper adorned with flowers, to a heavy, white or cream colored paper. In the mid-1800's monogrammed stationery was popular but was considered unfashionable by the end of the century. Even the most polished of letter writers sought additional instruction on letter writing through letter writing manuals. One such book, the lovers Letter Writer, provided answers to correct letter writing for every state of the relationship (acquaintance, business, courtship, marriage and friendship). It included 66 examples of every possible social need.
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As in few other works, the space of the present painting appears so real that the viewer feels as if he could almost walk into. However, any attempt to interpret Vermeer's canvas in the light of the dutch term houding remains resume speculative. But it is nonetheless instructive for the modern museum-goer to comprehend that while vermeer's painted illusions appear speak to us directly to us, they are more complex than we imagine. Early in his career Vermeer developed a penchant for placing his figures against light backgrounds, a practice tactfully avoided by most Dutch painters business who preferred dark backdrops. Although he may have arrived at this solution independently, it is possible that he was following the advice of the great leonardo da vinci who had noted "objects placed against a light background will naturally appear detached from that background." Moreover, in the present work. The effect is so effective that few observers note that the wall could never have received such intense light so distant from the light source. A similar effect was employed by piet Mondriaan in a photographic self portrait (brought to the attention of the author by the art historian Robert Wald). The dutch abstract painter is said to have been sensitive to vermeer's uncanny sense of design. Victorian Etiquette - letter Writing, we victorians are great letter writers. We write letters of apology, letters of congratulations, letters of introduction, letters of love and letters of business in addition to others. It is the social obligation of every victorian lady to convey news and information through good letters.
The distance which separates the 21st-century viewer from Vermeer's painting writing regards not only their symbolic meaning, but of the artist's formal, aesthetic goals as well. As scholar paul taylor has pointed out, the concept of pictorial balance, one of the cardinal values associated with Vermeer's art by modern criticism, is completely lacking in 17th-century art writing. Likewise, hauding, or houding, which appears to have been a key term for art writers of the time, is unknown to the public and little understood even by scholars. Taylor writes, "given the stress laid on houding in the theoretical texts, it seems reasonable to suggest that the concept was one often used in Dutch ateliers. The very fact that the word was adopted as an artistic term leads one to suppose that the notions to which it referred were widespread. For a word to enter a language, a fair number of users must have an interest in deploying." houding, wrote willem goeree in his Inleyding tot d'Algemeene teykenkonst of 1668, "is one of the most essential things to be observed in a drawing. Willem goeree willem goeree wrote, when houding is lacking, "things appear entangled in one another, packed together, or falling towards us in a tumble" and is "that which makes everything in a drawing or painting advance and recede, and makes everything from the nearest point. Proper houding avoided a painting appearing, as the dutch painter and art theorist Samuel van hoogstraten claimed, "like a chessboard." If houding is achieved, the observer feels that the painting is "accessible with one's feet that is, as if he could walk in and about.
The transitory nature of their encounter is reinforced by the like gesture of the mistress who momentarily holds her unopened letter in the air. On the other hand, the maid and mistress in the present picture speak of division. The two women face different directions. The maid looks out the window away from her mistress attempting to isolate herself from the uncomfortable situation while her mistress is emotionally involved in the response to a letter hastily cast down on the floor. As with her folded arms, the maid keeps her thoughts to herself. While the two figures are in close proximity, analogous to the two women in The love letter, their contours converge but never touch (see diagram lower left). The women remain divided both on the picture plane and in thought. The same devise animates the early Officer and laughing Girl.
A revealing comparison between T he love letter and the present work can be made. In both pictures Vermeer placed the maid standing behind her mistress who is positioned lower on the picture plane than her social subordinate. Here, the similarities between the two pairings stop because the emotional interaction that Vermeer intends to convey is quite different. In The love letter (see detail left the two women, whoc make direct eye contact, are entangled in a subtly confrontational relationship. The maid lowers her head towards her mistress in a relaxed, easy-going pose. The mistress, instead, is constrained to raise her head as she nervously investigates the expression of her maid who most likely knows something more about the contents of the letter than she. The relationship of the two figures is enhanced on the pictorial level by the sinuous, shared contours of the figures. They touch not only with their eyes.
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The mind abstracts visual information automatically without any conscious give intervention. For the painter, abstraction is a tool which is consciously employed to aid recognition, but also to enhance those aspects of reality which he deems most important to communicate. One of the greatest talents of Vermeer was his uncanny ability to relate painting technique, compositional design and, at times, even linear perspective to the theme of his work. This accomplishment is never achieved at the cost of subverting naturalism. Linear perspective is an all-important tool used to establish a coherent sense of depth to a realist image and to create the sensation that the objects which appear in different positions and at different distances from the viewer. In this system, all lines parallel with the viewer's line of sight recede to the horizon towards the vanishing point. The vanishing point stands opposite to the viewer.
When the traceable orthogonals of the perspectival system of the present work are extended to locate the vanishing point, we find that they converge precisely on the right-hand eye of the seated mistress. Thus, while working, vermeer sat directly in front of her with his eye at the same height from the ground as hers. Consequentially, even though the maid is placed at the geometrical center of the painting, the perspectival system leads the viewer's eye to the mistress, the expressive heart of the painting. Although Vermeer's paintings may appear straightforward depictions of reality, they are highly complex behind-the-scene elaborations of theme and pictorial language. In the present work, reality and painting and interwoven with exceptional mastery, each one discreetly enhancing the other. Particularly successful is the sub-theme which concerns the relationship between the mistress and her maid who belong to different social classes. This asymmetric relationship appears to have intrigued Vermeer since writer he elaborated on it more than once.
Contemporary observers linked the vehement cleansing of houses, streets, and ships to the destructive humidity typical of Dutch climate. Regular scrubbing would prevent furniture and wooden floors from moulding and rotting. However, weather conditions were quite similar in other parts of the north sea area where no such culture of cleanliness existed. In a recent study the historians Bas van bavel and Oscar Gelderblom have argued convincingly that Dutch cleanliness was closely bound to the commercialization of the all-important butter and dairy products both which require a extraordinary attention to hygiene. They estimate that by the turn of the 16th century half of all rural households and up to one third of urban households in Holland produced butter and cheese. The mimetic rendering of the present work is so uncomplicated that some critics have asserted it was not finished when it left the painter's easel.
Nonetheless, it compares quite well with the artist's late style which tends towards generalized, abstracted forms and broken tones instead of descriptive detail and continuous modeling. In fact, vermeer's art was to be championed by some 20th-century abstract painters who saw him as spiritual precursor the art-for-art's-sake doctrine. The degree to which Vermeer abstracted the observed world into pictorial terms is so authoritative that it frequently escapes notice. If one isolates the billowing starch-white sleeves from the rest of the painting, they are almost unrecognizable. Man's propensity towards abstracting visual phenomena has proved troublesome to explain in detail but it is generally held that the human mind tends to organize shapes in accordance with its own principal function: recognition and the retrieval of stored information. In short, abstraction reflects the way the human mind thinks. It tends to reduce the infinite complexities of visual phenomena to its simplest structure working towards the most regular, symmetrical geometrical shape attainable under the circumstances.
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On every weekend morning, the steps of the house had short to be cleaned, on Wednesday the whole house had to be gone over, tuesday afternoons were devoted to dusting, Thursdays for scrubbing and scouring and Fridays the cleaning of the cellar and kitchen. Although recent research has shown a growing concern of Italian writers in the 15th and 16th century for personal hygiene, cleanliness was confined to the higher echelons of urban society. According to contemporary writing, ordinary citizens, the poor and peasants were either ignored or used as a dirty contrasts to the aristocracy, with peasants embodying the hallmark of filth. Only maids that cleaned the houses of the bourgeois families were expected to maintain high standards of hygiene. Differently, in Holland, cleanliness involved the houses of a people both in towns and in the countryside. Foreign visitors on boat trips from Amsterdam witnessed the cleanliness in the surrounding villages. The origins of Dutch cleanliness has never been fully explained.
Most of Vermeer's maids are shown in a relatively neutral attitude. The, milkmaid, however, is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of the maid in the history of Dutch painting and has become to stand for domestic virtue and moral value of hard-working Dutch society as a whole. At the linen Closet (detail pieter de hooch 1665. Oil on canvas, 72.5. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the fact that the dutch word for clean bags ( schoon ) also means beautiful always draws a smile from those who are familiar with the cleanliness of Dutch homes. In Vermeer's time, no visitor ever failed to note that Dutch towns were ceaselessly swept, scrubbed, burnished, mopped and washed. According to an account of an English visitor, "The beauty and cleanliness of the streets are so extraordinary that Persons of all rank do not scruple, but seem to take pleasure in walking in them.". Within the house, dutch women followed a cleaning routine with military regimen. A popular household manual devoted an entire chapter to the weekly task which was expected to be followed with religious devotion.
and plays. They spoke their mind to their masters and mistress and were pictured as untrustworthy, the most dangerous women of all. However, the fact that they are portrayed so many times in family portraits may indicate that some were successfully integrated into the family, the fundamental unit of Dutch society. As wayne Franits pointed out, the maid's presence in the present picture "is not coincidental since in popular literature and theater (and in in genre painting)servants function as vital confidants in their mistress' and masters' amorous pursuits, In fact, many of the practical guides. Servants, largely female, made up about six percent of the dutch population, and between ten and twenty percent of all households had servants. Their importance was such that some towns had issued regulations to settle the disputes between masters and servants. For example, if a servant had been hired with solid references from her last employer, the new employer was forbidden to fire her before the terms of the original hire, usually six months.
The ground, a warm buff gray visible on the window frame where the lead casts shadows along a few contours in the figures, and in places along the shadowed edge of the carpet. The carpet is very sketchy and appears almost unfinished: instead of the soft transitions bright blocks of color have been placed next to from each other. The lady's white sleeve was painted wet-in-wet. Incised lines were used to define the tiled floors; the trailing corner of the carpet can be seen to flow into these lines. A dent in the paint in the lady's left eye marks the vanishing point of the composition. The background paint overlaps the maid's blue apron. The edge of the lower part of the green curtain appears to have been slightly further to the left. Cat., national Gallery of Art and royal Cabinet of paintings mauritshuis - washington and The hague, 1995, edited by Arthur.
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Signed on the table, under the hand of the writing lady 1671, albert Blankert, vermeer:, 1975. Wheelock., vermeer: The complete works, new York, 1997. 16701671, walter liedtke, vermeer: The complete paintings, new York, 2008. 1670671, wayne Franits, vermeer, 2015. The support is bill a plain weave linen canvas with a thread count of 14 x 14 per cm2. The canvas has been lined and the original tacking edges have been removed, Strainer bar marks.6 cm long from the fold edge can be seen on the top, bottom and right edges. The lesser degree of cusping on the left side, together with the lack of strainer marks, may indicate that the canvas has been cut down on this side.