Girl with a Red Hat: Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a Red Hat: Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a Red Hat is a portrait painting by Dutch Golden Age artist Johannes Vermeer. It was created in 1665. This work is located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States.

Analysis of Girl with the Red Hat

Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat is part of the genre of “tronies” instead of portraiture. In portraiture, a subject is a person, and the representation of that person is the focus. “Tronies” were studies on expression, so the representation of a person was not important.

There is a suggestion that it is one of Vermeer’s daughters, however, there is no documented proof of this.

These paintings are closer to a character study. Usually, the figure is in a costume embodying a certain archetype such as a soldier, aristocrat, etc. An example was that underneath this painting, it was found that it was originally a man in a wide-brimmed hat. The focus of the painting is the women’s expression – she is turning as if she has overheard someone say her name.

The subject is also wearing a large red hat and dangling earrings. Her clothes are not meant to be an exact portrayal of the fashion of the time. The hat is possibly a style from another country. Her blue cloth is casually thrown on. Her posture also is not formal enough for a portrait at the time.

This “tronie” is painted on a recycled wood panel – not oil on canvas. There are several suggestions on way such as a cheaper alternative to allowing detail to be shown better.

This painting is an example of the possible usage of the camera obscura. The camera obscura was a box with a glass lens that could project an image on the wall like a projector. The Hockney-Falco Thesis is a controversial one. The theory says that the realistic paintings of western art would have been impossible by simply “eyeballing it” or by imagination. Therefore, the use of a camera obscura was used. The camera obscura could help frame the image.

In this painting, the lion finials are blurred as they would be through a lens near the end of the rim. This distortion would not be seen by the human eye but through a lens. This blurriness can be seen in many paintings before the invention of photography. Through experimentation by Charles Seymour in the Art Bulletin, this blurriness was able to be replicated. It is suggested that these lions would have been facing another way, but it was artistic license by Vermeer to have them facing the viewer.

The shadows on the skin are painted with a dull green color which is more obvious in real life. This color is seen in his other paintings. This painting might have a possible sister though it is not confirmed.

Vermeer’s The Girl with a Flute also has a girl with a large grey hat and dangling earrings. It was common in Dutch homes to have two paired paintings shown above fireplaces or doors. This painting seems to challenge modern ideas of art of this period. Not all paintings of people were serious with no expression.

Also, these paintings were helped using the technology of the time and were not meant to be realistic. As an artist, Vermeer fabricated his reality through these “tronies”.

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