Jan Vermeer - The Procuress

by Alexandra Tuschka


The painting By the Bawd introduced the 24-year-old Vermeer to the theme of tavern and brothel scenes, which enjoyed great popularity on the Dutch art market of the 17th century. The work marks not only Vermeer's transition from history scenes to genre scenes, but as the last larger picture, as it were, the change to the small format mainly chosen thereafter.

Depicted in this oil painting is a group of four people, which is located in an indistinctly designed room. The bawd and the man toasting the viewer at the left edge of the picture are wrapped in dark colors and contrast with the luminosity of the prostitute and her suitor. As in many of his works, Vermeer created a space-dividing barrier by means of a Turkish rug that takes up nearly half of the painting. This distance created between the viewer and the figures has a moralizing function, warning against excessive drinking and sensual seduction. Exactly in the center of the painting, the central action is settled with the payment, on which, under the observation of the bawd, the gazes of the actors are also concentrated.


Even in this early work, the play of yellow and ultramarine blue so typical of Vermeer can be found in the clothing of the young woman and the wine carafe placed next to her. This is one of the reasons why Vermeer is one of the most popular Dutch artists today. This painting can be found in Dresden.


Jan Vermeer - The Procuress

Oil on canvas, 1665, 143 x 130 cm, Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden