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Meer, Jan Van Der

MEER, JAN VAN DER (1632-1675), more often called Vermeer of Delft not to be confounded with the elder (1628- 1691) or younger (1656-1705) Van der Meer of Haarlem, or with Van der Meer of Utrecht is one of the excellent Dutch painters about whom the Dutch biographers give us little information. 1 Van der Meer, or Vermeer, was born in Delft, and was a pupil of Carel Fabritius, whose junior he was by only eight years. The works by Fabritius are few, but his contemporaries speak of him as a man of remarkable power, and the paintings now ascertained to be from his hand, and formerly ascribed to Rembrandt, prove him to have been deeply imbued with the spirit and manner of that master. Whether Van der Meer had ever any closer relation to Rembrandt than through companionship with Fabritius remains uncertain. In 1653 he married Catherine Bolenes, and in the same year he entered the gild of St Luke of Delft, becoming one of the heads of the gild in 1662 and again in 1670. He died at Delft in 1675, leaving a widow and eight children. His circumstances cannot have been flourishing, for at his death he left twenty-six pictures undisposed of, and his widow had to apply to the court of insolvency to be placed under a curator, who was Leeuwenhoek, the naturalist.

For more than two centuries Van der Meer was almost completely forgotten, and his pictures were sold under the names and forged signatures of the more popular De Hooch, Metsu, Ter Borch, and even of Rembrandt. The attention of the artworld was first recalled to this most original painter by Thore, 'an exiled Frenchman, who described his then known works in Musees de la Hollande (1858-1860), published under the assumed name of W. Burger. The result of his researches, continued in his Galerie Suermondt and Galerie d'Arenberg, was afterwards given by him in a charming, though incomplete, monograph (Gazette des beaux-arts, 1866, pp. 297, 458, 542). The task was prosecuted with success by Havard (Les Artistes hollandais), and by Obreen (Nederlandsche Kunslgeschiedenis, Dl. iv.), and we are now in a position to refer to Van der Meer's works. His pictures are rarely dated, but one of the most important, in the Dresden Gallery, bears the date 1656, and thus gives us a key to his styles. With the exception of the " Christ with Martha and Mary " in the Coats collection at Glasgow, it is perhaps the only one, hitherto recognized, that has figures of life size, though his authorship is claimed for several others. The Dresden picture of a " Woman and Soldier," with other two figures, is painted with remarkable power and boldness, with great command over the resources of colour, and with wonderful expression of life. For strength and colour it more than holds its own beside the neighbouring Rembrandts. To this early period of his career belong, from internal evidence, the "Reading Girl " of the same gallery, the luminous and masterly " View of Delft " in the museum of the Hague, the " Milk-Woman " and the small street view, both identified with the Six collection at Amsterdam, the former now in the Rijksmuseum; the magnificent "The Letter" also at Amsterdam, "Diana and the Nymphs" (formerly ascribed to Vermeer of Utrecht) at the Hague Gallery, and others. In all these we find the same brilliant style and vigorous work, a solid impasto, and a crisp, sparkling touch. His first manner seems to have been influenced by the pleiad of painters circling round Rembrandt, a school which lost favour in Holland in the last quarter of the century. During the final ten or twelve years of his life Van der Meer adopted a second manner. We now find his painting smooth and thin, and his colours paler and softer. Instead of masculine vigour we have refined delicacy and subtlety, but in both styles beauty of tone and perfect harmony are conspicuous. Through all his work 1 This undeserved neglect seems to have fallen on him at an early period, for Houbraken (Groote Schouburgh, 1718), writing little more than forty years after his death, does not even mention him The only definite information we have from a contemporary is given by Bleyswijck (Beschrijving der Stad Delft, 1687), who tells us that he was born in 1632, and that he worked with Care! Fabritius an able disciple of Rembrandt, who lost his life by an explosion of a powder magazine in Delft in 1654. It is to the patient researche of W. Burger (Th. Thor), Havard, Obreen, Soutendam, and others that we owe our knowledge of the main facts of his life, discovere< in the archives of his native town.

may be traced his love of lemon-yellow and of blue of all shades.

)f his second style typical examples are to be seen in " The Coquette" of the Brunswick Gallery, in the "Woman Reading" n the Van der Hoop collection now at the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam, in the " Lady at a Casement " belonging to Lord Powerscourt (exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1878) and in he " Music Master and Pupil " belonging to the King (exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1876).

Van der Meer's authentic pictures in public and private collections amount to about thirty. There is but one in the xmvre, the "Lace Maker"; Dresden has the two aforementioned, while Berlin has three, all acquired in the Suermondt collection, and the Czernin Gallery of Vienna is fortunate in assessing a fine picture, believed to represent th artist in his studio. In the Arenberg Gallery at Brussels there is a remarkable head of a girl, half the size of life, which seems to be intermediate between his two styles. Several of his paintings are n private foreign collections. In all his work there is a singular completeness and charm. His tone is usually silvery with jearly shadows, and the lighting of his interiors is equal and latural. In all cases his figures seem to move in light and air, and in this respect he resembles greatly his fellow-worker De Hooch. It is curious to read that, at one of the auctions in Amsterdam about the middle of the 18th century, a De Hooch s praised as being " nearly equal to the famous Van der Meer of Delft."

See also Havard, Van der Meer (Paris, 1888); Vanzype, Vermeer de Delft (Brussels, 1908), and Hofstede de Groot, Jan Vermeer von Delft (Leipzig, 1909).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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