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“The Procuress” by Johannes Vermeer

"The Procuress" by Johannes Vermeer

“The Procuress” by Johannes Vermeer

“The Procuress” by Johannes Vermeer depicts the procurement of mercenary love in a contemporary Dutch setting. It was Vermeer’s first genre painting, focusing on the everyday life of ordinary people.

A soldier in the red jacket is fondling the young woman’s breast and dropping a coin into her outstretched hand. 

The woman in black clothing is the procuress, after whom the painting is titled. The procuress or a madam is the one who procures women for money.

The man to the side wearing a black beret and a doublet with slashed sleeves is probably a self-portrait of Vermeer. In the painting, Vermeer’s character is as a musician, in the employ of the madam, he carries a cittern as his musical instrument.

The then 24-year-old Johannes Vermeer created this 1656 painting. This scene, which may be set in a brothel, differs greatly from his biblical and mythological scenes.

It is one of only three paintings Vermeer signed and dated. In 1696 the painting was auctioned in Amsterdam, with the title of “A merry company in a room.”

This painting was influenced by earlier work on the same subject called “The Procuress” by Dirck van Baburen, owned by Vermeer’s mother-in-law.

The painting is atypical of Vermeer’s style and expression and lacks the typical light. It showed a 24-year-old Vermeer seeking his style. The depiction of the jug and rug demonstrates his emerging skills.

The composition includes a beautify executed Westerwald jug decorated with cobalt blue painted designs.

A detailed oriental Kilim rug thrown over a banister is a tapestry-woven carpet traditionally produced in the Turkic countries, which became popular in the wealthy Western European countries.

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life.

He was a moderately successful painter in his lifetime. However, he was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death.

There are only thirty-four paintings by Vermeer, and they are challenging to date. Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes, and most of his pictures are set in the rooms of his house in Delft.

There are similar furniture and decorations in various arrangements in his domestic scenes, and his art often portrays the same people.  He was not wealthy, as he left his family in debt after his death.

He produced relatively few paintings compared to his contemporaries. Art historians mainly overlooked Vermeer’s works for several centuries after his death. 

However, his reputation has skyrocketed in the last few hundred years, and he is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

The Procuress

  • Title:                 The Procuress
  • Dutch:              De koppelaarster
  • Artist:               Johannes Vermeer
  • Year:                 1656
  • Type:                Oil on canvas
  • Period:             Dutch Golden Age
  • Dimensions:     Height: 1,430 mm (56.29 in); Width: 1,300 mm (51.18 in)
  • Museum:          Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Johannes Vermeer’s “The Procuress,” 1656

Johannes Vermeer

Rembrandt vs Vermeer: The Titans of Dutch Painting

Tour of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister


“What’s the use of candle and glasses if the owl doesn’t want to see.”
– Dutch Proverb


Photo Credit: 1) Johannes Vermeer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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