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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The thought-provoking painting, The Procuress, manifests an array of allegorical imagery conceived by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

The artwork dates back to 1654 at the onset of the painter's career.

The rich detail showcased across the canvas illuminates the mastery of the artist just as he had begun his career.

With no formal education, the meticulous attention to detail achieved by the artist transcends his artwork for centuries gaining recognition.

The Procuress if one of three of Vermeer's signed and dated paintings, along with The Astronomer and The Geographer.

Vermeer was 24 years old at creation of The Procuress; an oil on canvas painting at 143 cm x 130cm. The significance behind the artwork is that it is the artist's first genre painting that showcases a scene from the society at the time. The Procuress demonstrates the contemporary life displayed at the time of the 17th century.

While the exact imagery behind the painting remains unknown, the scene within the painting seems to resemble a brothel. The emotion felt through the painting holds an element of fear and depict through the body language and imagery on the canvas.

The painting differs from popular biblical and mythological paintings created during the Dutch Golden Age. Instead the imagery of contemporary life showcases the fearful encounter between three men and a woman. Vermeer had portrayed the woman within the painting through an innocent set up, covering her head in a white cloth and a light yellow shirt.

The focal point of the painting is the woman opening her hand to the man behind her as he places something within. The woman's attention is seized by the man placing a token within her hand while his other hang gently grasps the woman's breast. The scene unravelled through the painting suggests that the men are attempting to manipulate the woman, or perhaps a trade is occurring within a brothel.

The dark presence of the men within the painting adds a gloomy feel to the piece as the viewer wonders about their intentions towards the woman.

The interesting element to witness within the piece is that the man on the left is a self-portrait of the artist, Johannes Vermeer. It is fascinating to wonder as to why the artist had portrayed his character with a smirk painted across his face, alongside as to why he's the only character catching the gaze of the viewer.

The style of the artwork holds a significant resemblance to The Art of Painting through the style of the work. Both artwork's by Vermeer hold a realist technique while following the Baroque style at the time. Vermeer used an array of expensive paints with rich pigment to manifest bright colours throughout the work.

The artist focused on showcasing the bright colours within the painting on the woman, using a blood red and shades of black to portray the other men. This method enabled Vermeer to used colour to add to the plot of the painting by used positive shades to show the woman's innocents in comparison to the deceit of the man in red.

The Procuress is atypical style of Johannes Vermeer that uses a lack of light to portray the mood of the piece. The dark men throughout the artwork leave the viewer wondering as to the exact event being portrayed within the painting. Illustrating the exquisite artistry Johannes Vermeer held at the onset of his career.