Jan Vermeer Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
Painted in 1662, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, became the first work by the artist to enter the United States, joining the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the late nineteenth century, where it is housed to this day. An emblematic canvas from the Dutch master, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher is typical of the artist's use of everyday objects and tasks such as a scales, the writing of a letter, water jugs, milk jugs and bread-making to reveal more than just a simple reproduction of a domestic scene. Indeed, Vermeer, even three and a half centuries later, leads his viewers on a very subtle journey, depicting universal human themes such as the hope of love, the importance of moderation, balance and justice. The artist's enduring appeal, one that is still very much felt to this day, is due in large part to his ability to render with eloquence in paint emotions such as tenderness, care and love, in a manner both restrained and positive. In Young Woman with a Water Pitcher Vermeer freezes the action and silences time, exuding a sense of peace and serenity through the endless tide of time and history.
Considered by many to be his most poetic work, Vemeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher takes as its subject a theme ubiquitous in his works; that of a preoccupied domestic servant enacting her everyday tasks. The repetitive nature of her responsibilities, one that we can infer she enacted like clockwork due to the uniformity of it, is transformed into an ethereal moment of illumination. Painted, like almost all of the painter's canvases, in a humble room and beside an open window, her silent movements, soft facial expression, and the cool serenity of her blue costume betray a look of inner peace and purity. The water jug, itself a symbol of purification, takes centre-stage in this skilful revelation of everyday majesty.
Vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher is also an exploration of the relationship between the domestic sphere and the world beyond the open window. During the Golden Age of Dutch painting, women were largely confined to the home, yet the artist depicts his subject as one with a distinct relationship with the outdoors. Her indoor life seems to take the shape of the work itself; a moment frozen in time between her private life and rest. It is an intermission in a lifetime of monotony.
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