Jan Vermeer - Woman holding a balance

von Sylvi Weidlich


Der erste Blick beim Betrachten dieses Werkes von Jan Vermeer wandert sofort zur Waage als Bildmittelpunkt. Dieses Instrument ist so zart und feingliedrig, dass schon ein kleiner Lufthauch sie sofort in Bewegung versetzen würde. Die Waage behutsam austarierend, stützt sich die junge Perlenwägerin – vielleicht um die für das Wiegen nötige innere Ruhe zu finden – mit der linken Hand an der Tischplatte ab. Auf dem Tisch vor ihr sehen wir für Vermeer typisch zusammengeraffte Stoffe, hinter denen Werkzeuge und Perlenketten auf einem Tisch für den Vorgang des Abwiegens bereit liegen.

In the right, upper part of the picture we look at an apocalyptic scene of the Last Judgment, which is possibly part of a larger altarpiece. Let's take a closer look at the scales of the pearl-weighing woman: In Christian iconography, the scales of the soul are considered an attribute of the archangel Michael. He weighs good and evil in order to present the good and bad deeds of each person on the day of death before the Last Judgment. This list then decides the path to paradise or eternal damnation.


It is noticeable that the pearl-weaver herself wears no jewelry, earrings or pearl necklaces as a symbol of vanity, while a demure hood covers her hair. The short coat is a dark blue that has something almost regal about it. And her scales are empty. Vermeer leaves a moral fingerprint in this work, and art historical research interprets it as a decision by the young woman against earthly temptations such as vanity. She has already decided for eternal life symbolized in the painting of the Last Judgment behind her.


To keep the right measure, not to be distracted by worldly pleasures and to find the inner balance - the Pearl Woman can confidently look forward to the Day of Judgment.


Jan Vermeer - Woman holding a balance

Oil on canvas, 1662 -1664, 42.5 × 38 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

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