Women Holding A Balance Johannes Vermeer c.1664
The art piece I chose to interpret the meaning behind is Woman Holding A Balance by Johannes Vermeer as shown above. The details that are depicted in this piece help connect one another to a more clear interpretation for the audience, from the balance in the women’s hand to the light that is being shown in the piece. The simplicity behind what Vermeer demonstrates in the act of weighing her jewelry entails a deeper connection to her surroundings. The way Vermeer lets the audience perceive whether or not she is weighing actual worldly things such as the jewelry that is laid out in front of her or if she is weighing and trying to balance her thoughts. One of the many details that are very important in this piece is the symmetry in it and how Vermeer places everything in the picture symmetrically such as the point of the balance being the center of the picture, the vanishing point of the picture which is at the end of her pinky finger and lastly also how the women is also dividing the art work behind her in half which is portrayed as the day of judgement. That brings me to my next point which is the meaning of the art piece included in the background, the work behind the women shows Christ weighing down the burden of peoples sins known more as judgement day which gives a new meaning to the women letting the audience include a religious or spiritual aspect in the piece such as the possibility of her trying to weigh down her sins as if she was facing judgement day. Thus allowing the audience to infer that one must lead a life of temperance and with good judgement, as just like the women who is faced with worldly attractions from her surroundings such as wealth and gold that at times might lead us into the world of sin. Though the jewelry might also serve as a reminder of the reward one might receive in judgement day if they were to not stray into the world of sin.
Continuing on to the religious aspect and using the art piece that is also depicted in the piece itself we are shown that women is placed exactly in the middle of the painting that depicts Jesus carrying peoples sins and burdens but her position might entail that she is dividing the blessed from the dammed and the balance shows how she is concerned on how she might stand with Christ in Judgement day and whether she’ll be with the blessed or with the dammed.
One of the other details that was very prominent was the fact that the women in the piece looked as if she was expecting a child therefore changing the dynamic for the audience to different interpretation of the piece, because now the audience might perceive that the balance might represent her trying to figure out whether or not she has lived a balanced life still taking in consideration the spiritual and religious aspect of the work and the obvious riches displayed but now integrating the representation of the mirror in front of her. With the empty balance in her hand she is probably thinking about like I previously stated the decisions in her life and whether she has set that example in her for her unborn child, taking the mirror into the interpretation this might represent how it represents vanity and the worldly pleasures and the painting behind her the importance of living a godly life while the balance serves as a tool to examine her life and how this might help her steer her unborn child towards the right direction. Therefore this interpretation also showed how the balance was used for the women’s thoughts and contemplation of her past life and her future life.
Vermeer’s biography explains the he grew up, lived and died in Delft. He was raised as a protestant, but before marrying he converted to Catholicism. In the 1600s religion was a big part of his life, which supports the logic and symbolism and the meaning behind most of his paintings such as Women Holding A Balance . For the most part his culture is portrayed in his paintings, like such, where the clothing the woman is wearing and the artifact she is holding. In his works his style seemed to be more realistic in the historical aspect or realistic in the religious aspect. Like the art in the 17th century that communicated more religious themes due to the influence of the Catholic church Vermeer also conveyed that through some of his paintings. Another aspect of the message in the piece that I feel also influenced Vermeer in this piece was the historical aspect that was occurring at that time which was the Dutch Realism, which was a time in which artist started painting in different approaches such as an everyday life moment contrary to a more intense scenery.
Swillens, P.T.A. Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Deft, 1632-1675. n.d.