Girl Interrupted at her Music
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||39.4 cm × 44.5 cm (15.5 in × 17.5 in)|
|Location||Frick Collection, New York City|
Girl Interrupted at her Music is a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It was painted in the baroque style, probably between the years 1658 and 1659, using oil on canvas. In this painting, Vermeer depicts a young woman at her music with an older gentleman. This painting shows the typical courtship during the 17th century in Europe. It also focuses on the importance of music when it comes to love. The room that they are shown in is one of higher class, most likely belonging to a person of haute bourgeoisie. The painting is very reminiscent of Vermeer’s other works.
Important objects and symbols
The wine glass, discreetly shown on the table behind the songbook, is tied with both joyfulness and seduction. In the 17th century it was popular to paint scenes that depicted feasts that included drinking, gaming, and playing music. Later on, these large gatherings became smaller and more exclusive with two or three people shown. Drinking wine was also associated with love during this time period. You can see that the glass is full and untouched, which symbolizes the slow moving relationship between the man and the woman.
On the left side of the painting is a multi-paned window, from which the light source is provided for the scene. Vermeer used the same window design in eight of his other works (Music Lesson, Girl with a Glass of Wine, The Glass of Wine, Woman Writing a Letter with Her Maid, Woman with a Water Pitcher, Woman with a Lute, Woman Holding a Balance, and Woman with a Pearl Necklace). Some experts questioned whether this painting was by Vermeer. The precision of the lighting from the window was thought to prove that it was in fact an original Vermeer.
The chairs depicted in the painting are thought to have been from Spain. They are the some of the few objects in the painting that weren’t damaged by heavy restoration. You can see the minute details including the lion head carving, the brass studs, and the “lozenge” pattern that were all popular aspects of furniture during the time.
The hazy painting in the background of the scene is of Cupid. The painting within a painting was discovered after its restoration in 1907; it had been covered up by a wall and a hanging violin. Many observations have been made about the Cupid painting and what it could have to do with the painting as a whole. It has been said that Cupid may be warning the couple about the dangers of love. Another guess was that Cupid's upraised hand was a symbol that you must only have one lover. Another expert says that Cupid is actually holding up a blank card representing love as a game. It has also been thought that it just shows that "love is in the air". The reason for the Cupid painting will most likely never be revealed due to the damage of the painting.
The vase shown on the table, which is made of porcelain and silver, was most likely used for serving wine. One of the main centers for porcelain in the Netherlands was and still is Delft, although they had "limited success" in recreating Chinese porcelain.
The man shown is most likely upper class due to his fashionable attire.
During the 17th century love and music often went hand in hand with each other, especially with the presence of a duet between a man and woman. Playing music with one another was one of the few activities were young people of the opposite sex could socialize. The people in the painting most likely were part of the haute bourgeoisie, which meant that they were worldly when it came to music and had collections of songbooks.
The painting is a theme in the book Girl, Interrupted, the title of that book being based on the title of the painting.
- Frick Collection page
- The Works of Vermeer
1. Janson, J.. "Girl Interrupted at Her Music." Essential Vermeer. N.p., 2011. Web. 12 Mar 2012.