The Astronomer and the Geographer, Vermeer

The Astronomer and the Geographer, Vermeer
The Astronomer and the Geographer, Vermeer

Despite the innumerable studies and documents that we know about the history of art, few authors are today as mysterious to us as Johannes Vermeer continues to be. However, the works of the baroque artist captivate us and take us into a unique and personal space that only the brushes of this artist were capable of recreating; his painting has a kind and mysterious touch at the same time, recreating light with a unique and fascinating singularity.


The life and even the face of the artist remain a mystery to us, the information we have about his biography is barely consistent and often unconnected with each other. In this sense, we must highlight how hisartistic production is also surrounded by a great mystery, most of the works that we assure are by the painter, they are simple attributions and only three canvases are preserved which are signed and dated by him. On this occasion we analyze two of those canvases, The Geographer and The Astronomer.

Compared to the bulk of the canvases attributed to the painter that deal with the female figure in more everyday activities, the works of the Geographer and the Astronomer have a man as their protagonist, a man also devoted to science,thus representing the importance of the intellectual current at the time.

Both canvases are placed in tune andthere are many similarities between them, perhaps the most striking of all of them is that the protagonist of the canvas seems to be the same character in both paintings. In this way, some scholars seem to point out that the protagonist of the canvases could be the outstanding scientist Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek, although he does not seem to bear many similarities physically with the aforementioned scientist. Both scenes take place in an interior space, a small room with a wooden window that we have already seen in other compositions by the baroque painter and that allows the room to be illuminated and creates chiaroscuro games.

800px-J._VERMEER_-_The_Geographer_(Städel_Museum, _Frankfurt_on_Main, _1669)

In the work of the Geographer the scientist remains standing, bending over books and maps and holding a compass in his hand, he appears dressed in a kind of oriental tunic very popular at the time and is completely absorbed in his thoughts; perhaps even nervous or excited about some new discovery. For its part, the work of The Astronomer represents a calmer man, the scientist is sitting at the study table in front of the window; the scientist simultaneously consults a terrestrial globe and a manual that rests on the table. In the background, hanging on the wall, we find a religious painting, a scene from the life of Moses that tells us about the relationship between science and religion.

Both works have an almost quadrangular format and are small canvases barely halfside meter. The dating for both is the same, in the year 1669 and while the Astronomer is currently exhibited in the Louvre, Paris, the work of the Geographer is in the Städel Institute in Frankfurt.

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