The great 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer created fewer than forty paintings during his lifetime, and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal from 1670–72 is one of his last.
On loan from the private Leiden Collection, it is typical of the acclaimed artist’s style in its depiction of a solitary woman seated at the keyboard instrument with light illuminating the scene from a window not seen on the canvas. This masterpiece is the inspiration for the DMA exhibition Vermeer Suite: Music in 17th-Century Dutch Painting, which includes seven additional loans from the Leiden Collection of works by Vermeer’s contemporaries—artists Jan Steen, Gerard ter Borch, Jacob Adriaensz Ochtervelt, Eglon van der Neer, Gerard Dou, and Frans van Mieris—whose paintings also portray musicians performing period instruments such as the lute, violin, and violincello.
The music paintings of Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries reflect a cultural and artistic heritage inextricably linked to music making. Steeped in symbolism, this subset of Dutch genre painting reveals the influence of music on nearly every element of daily life in 17th-century Netherlands, from social classes to gender norms and religion.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.