If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:17

Video transcript

[Music] there's nothing subtle about 17th century Dutch genre painting so often were shown interactions that are wonderfully body and wonderfully explicit there is an exception however Yann Vermeer's paintings often are riddles they give us suggestions of narratives and in this painting it's true we're not really sure exactly what's about to unfold what we're seeing is a man who is still wearing his hat and outer cloak he stands a side of a table with a beautiful carpet on it and he has his hand on a jug of wine he looks like he's ready to refill the young woman's glass she's got it up to her mouth and she's just finishing it off well he looks impatient to pour her in other glasses though the goal of this whole interaction is to get her drunk but across from her at the window that is a jar we can actually see a rendering in the stained glass of temperance of moderation in a sense an instruction to her to watch her step and so the painting is about possibility it's about her choice and the man whose face is shadowed by his hat is a little bit sinister in that way there's a sense of distance between the two figures a sense that they're not terribly familiar with one another and I almost wonder whether the wine is gonna make that happen one of the reasons that the flirtation doesn't have an opportunity to be represented is because he's in shadow we can just barely make out his eyes and her eyes are completely obscured by the shine in a beautifully delicate glass that she holds in front of her face she can't speak now if she's drinking and she can't even see beyond that glass or at least we can't see and yet that shine is all about vision and it's held right at her eyes this is an early Vermeer but already we can see his fascination with soft light and look at the way it infuses this space comes through that blue curtain and the delicacy that he's lavished on the tonality of the back wall and the other forms in this room it's just spectacular well Vermeer is interested in light we also have of that characteristic geometry in the composition the square of the window that's open the rectangle of the frame on the back wall the square on the back of the chair and the squares that move back and the perspective on the floor there is this kind of checkerboard pattern that does create a clear structured interior and then we have objects that are placed askew of that so you've got the line that the window should trace but the window is open so that there's a diagonal that interrupts it you've got the careful rectilinear tiles on the floor but then you've got the chair again that's at an angle and is offset from it in some ways this painting is about the disruption of order and the way objects are placed in this space are about the tension that's created when things are not aligned and perhaps that functions is a kind of metaphor for the interaction between the two figure kind of foreboding about what may happen there are ways that the figures are linked look at the concentric rings that fall from the man you have his collar then you've got a series of folds in the drapery that catch the light and sort of expand as they move down towards his arm and then that motion is picked up by the beautiful gold brocade in the woman's dress and then the folds on her hip and so there really is a kind of harmony between those figures and in some ways this painting is about harmony and disharmony it's about alignment and things being askew and that's also symbolized in the musical instrument which is used in Vermeer's beings to suggest both harmony and frivolity so which way is it going to go I'm not sure I think Vermeer is leaving that question open for the viewer by leaving this question open for mere creates an image that is really poetic [Music]