This painting is the first known Vermeer. One of his early works, dated 1656.
A large format work 56.3 X 51.2″ (143 X 130 cm). The subject, the decor and the cultural climate are perfectly exemplary of the Caravaggio school. 
Dirck van Baburen – The Procuress 1622
Baburen was one of several painters from Utrecht, in Holland, who went to study and work in Rome. Profoundly influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers, they specialized in close-up views of large, half-length figures, modelled with stark contrasts of light and shadow. Here, an amorous suitor barters with an elderly, turbanned woman for the favours of a cheerful young woman. The lute, symbol of love, occupies the centre of the composition; the gestures of the hands that surround it tell the painting’s story. Vermeer may have owned this painting, because in two of his paintings this painting is in the background. Lady Seated at a Virginal and The Concert.

Vermeers version of the Procuress

In this famous picture by Vermeer we can clearly distinguish four different characters. A whore, a procuress, a young man and another man drinking some spirits are the protagonists of the picture.
The whore is a young girl with fair features and clean clothes. She is ready to do her job with the young man in red who is touching her. She holds a glass of some spirits with which she intends to make her suitor go drunk. Whores were supposed to make their lovers go as drunk as possible at that time, and providing they got very drunk, sex was no longer an option for them. She seems to be posing very tranquil and she offers both the viewer and the young man a fair smile. She is presented as a sensitive young girl who is ready to make her job.
The young man in red is the suitor to the young whore in yellow. He is a young man – probably a soldier- that wants to have sexual relationships with that girl. He is wearing a red coat – maybe symbol of passion and sexual desire- and a large, black hat with which he is trying to cover the girl, as if he was willing to shelter her – probably meaning he wants to take on her in the bed. He also has his hand on her left breast, as though he was embracing her, and sexually possessing her – showing his clear intentions – at the same time.

The procuress is the woman in black. She is not easily recognised because she is not like most procuresses in other pictures. Her features are fair and she even looks like a man. She is paying heed to the economical transaction that is taking place in the picture. What is more, in early stages of the picture, she was receiving some money – this means she was more active – from the young suitor. Eventually, she is just looking at him and making sure everything goes perfectly. However, the viewer should notice the malice in her eyes, meaning she is no fool and she knows how to deal with economical and sexual issues. In fact, the procuresses were frequently retired whores that had enough money to lead their own business.
The man in black is much of a jester. He is a comical character that functions rather as the narrator of the story. As a matter of fact, he is looking at the viewer, as if he wanted to tell the story to whoever is examining it. He is aside the action and he wears black clothes so that he does not attract too much attention to himself. Many critics agree nowadays that he is a self-portrait of the very Vermeer. Actually, it was very common to find the painters of those “brothels” in their own pictures. Thus, Vermeer could be following the current fashion.

(Sources: )


8 thoughts on “K = De Koppelaarster

  1. I'm glad that you liked it Stuart. Observing is only part of a museum experience. If you read a bit before you are going to the museum you will never look at the painting the same…

    Nice of you to stop by,


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