Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and faux marbling

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


In Johannes Vermeer’s paintings, we find compelling examples of the artist’s impressions of textiles, rugs and other fabrics. With brushstrokes applied in a playful manner, Vermeer seems to have been experimenting with form, colour and the manner of paint application itself. However, I would argue that a meticulous representation of the materials was not his ambition, rather an indication of its nature.
In two of his late paintings, Vermeer exhibits his mastery of faux marbling. In ‘Lady Standing at a Virginal’ and ‘Lady Seated at a Virginal’ (London), the heavy, but cold precious stone he depicted on the body of the virginals are quite contradictory to the nature of a delicate musical instrument. To create his faux marble, Vermeer must have first applied a monochrome base tone. On top of this, he painted shades of dark and light grey with quick, spontaneous brushwork to draw the veins of the marble. Recipes on the painting of these representations informs us of a complexity of alternating aqueous media with pigments bound in oil, a technique that only few craftspeople master today.
Period25 Jun 2024
Event titleCIHA World Congress: Matter Materiality
Event typeConference
Conference number36th
OrganisersThe Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art (CIHA), French Committee of Art History (CFHA), Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Laboratoire de recherche historique Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA)
LocationLyon, FranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational