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The picture - at roughly 4 feet by 3 feet, his largest - is either an allegory or (perhaps more likely) a celebration of the art of painting.
Either way, the scene's 'theatrical' quality is deliberately highlighted by the prominent curtain which is pulled back to the left as if revealing a stage play.
In particular, the picture itself demonstrates, through the use of linear perspective and chiaroscuro, that painting can fool the eye into "seeing" three-dimensional depth and solidity of form.
All this was Vermeer's attempt to answer one recurrent question that continued to be debated by painters, sculptors and writers - What was the painter's place in society?
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Picture: The Art of Painting Date: 1665-67 Artist: Jan Vermeer (1632-75) Medium: Oil painting on canvas Genre: Dutch Realist genre painting Movement: 17th Century Dutch Painting Location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
In any event, like the hat worn by an Orthodox Jew as a reminder of the existence of a higher power, the chandelier is an allusion to the overarching presence of God.
The map covering the rear wall of the studio contains a tear symbolizing the division between the Dutch Republic to the north and the Habsburg-ruled Flemish provinces to the south (note: as was the custom, the top of the map points to the West).
This canvas is one of the two allegorical-literary works by the artist - the other being Allegory of Faith (c.1673, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) - which have come down to us, and it would seem, given Vermeer's working methods, that it was the genre he was least suited to.
The painter himself is wearing an obviously old-fashioned, historical outfit.
The message is that painting is on a par with other arts like poetry and philosophy, and - more importantly - that painting can represent any visual manifestation, real or imagined, in the history of the world.
It now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
The picture is believed to have been Vermeer's favourite, which is rather surprising.
To Vermeer's contemporaries, the artist's model would have been instantly recognizable from her dress as the muse Clio, one of the nine personifications of the highest standards of art and philosophy in Greek mythology, who became the patron of History.