In Girl With a Pearl Earring, how would you describe Vermeer?
Vermeer, a converted Catholic, marries his wife, Catharina, and lives in the home of his mother-in-law in what is called the Papist Corner. There are two aspects of his life that I think contributed to his style and choice of subject in his painting.
Vermeer and his wife had a reasonably good marriage, they had 15 children, 11 survived. But his wife was prone to outbursts. His mother-in-law really ruled the home, and paid the bills. With so many children to care for, and the fact that Vermeer did not support himself very well financially through his painting, history suggests that he painted for a patron, Pieter van Ruijven, who collected about half of his work. So, perhaps he painted to please van Ruijven.
Or perhaps, he painted to capture on canvas the domestic bliss that eluded him in life. His wife was unstable and prone to flashes of temper, having had a childhood marked by a violent father. So, when I look at Vermeer's work, I see women who are serene in settings of simplicity, something that the painter captured on canvas, which he envisioned in his mind. He enjoyed the solitude of his studio, and the silence of his subjects.
The Girl With the Pearl Earring, if you believe the book and film, suggest that the painting was commissioned by his patron, and arranged by his mother-in-law, against the express wishes of his wife, who tried to destroy the finished work with a knife to the canvas out of jealousy.
Vermeer is portrayed as a quiet and private man. He is an excellent artist, and very meticulous in his work. He trusts Greit and asks her to assist him, even though it is not in her job description as a maid. There is also some slight sexual tension between them, even if only through the eyes of his art. He recognizes beauty everywhere and celebrates beauty in the simple things. He remarks, "Paintings may serve a spiritual purpose for Catholics, but remember too that Protestants see God everywhere, in everything. By painting everyday things - tables and chairs, bowls and pitchers, soldiers and maids - are they not celebrating God's creation as well?"
Vermeer was a Catholic who was married to Catharina and they had fifteen children altogether but only eleven survived. He was a painter by profession. He did not make a living from his paintings and hence his primary source of income was Maria Thins who was his mother in law. He usually used a camera obscura as he painted.