My painting today entitled The Glass of Wine was painted around 1662 by the Dutch Artist Johannes Vermeer and now hangs in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The picture shows a woman seated at a table drinking a glass of wine. Her face is almost hidden by the nearly empty glass. She is elegantly clothed wearing a red satin tabbaard with its dazzling ornate gold brocade suggesting that she has dressed to please her guest. An elegantly dressed and debonair looking man stands at her side, keeping a respectful distance from her. He looks straight at her with his hand, enclosed by a ruffled cuff, on a porcelain pitcher and seems to be waiting to fill her glass. His drab coloured clothing is in contrast to the woman’s attire and aids the visual divide between the two characters in the painting.
A number of song books lie on the table which is covered by a heavy ornamental cloth. On the Spanish chair there is a blue cushion on which sits a cittern, a stringed instrument dating from the Renaissance. This is an instrument that often occurs in Vermeer’s pictures and symbolises both harmony and frivolity. Should we believe, that moments before, the man had serenaded the woman? Vermeer gives no indication as to the relationship between the man and woman or whether consuming alcohol will lead to the softening of her heart towards the gentleman. Maybe Vermeer just hints at a relationship.
The stained glass window to the left of the picture features a woman holding a level and bridle, personifying Temperantia (temperance). The level symbolises good deeds and the bridle symbolises emotional control. The coat of arms has been identified as that of Janetge Vogel, first wife of Moses van Nederveen, who lived in a house on the Oude Delft canal. Why this coat of arms? Janetge Vogel had died in 1624, eight years before Vermeer was born and some thirty five years before he painted this work and even though Vermeer lived close to this house, it is unlikely that he had ever lived in it. This coat of arms also appears in another of Vermeer’s painting The Girl with Two Men.
The clothes of the figures, the patterned tablecloth, the gilded picture frame hanging on the back wall, and the coat of arms in the stained window glass all suggest a wealthy and high-class setting. Vermeer has an interesting way of showing the light coming in through the leaded window and how it interacts with the people and objects in the room.