Johannes Vermeer Paints Woman with a Water Jug

Woman with a Water Jug, also known as Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, is a painting finished between 1660-1662 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer in the Baroque style.

It is oil on canvas, 45,7cm x 40,6 cm, and is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This painting is one of a closely related group painted in the early to mid 1660s where the artist appears to be moving away from an emphasis on linear perspective and geometric order. He seems to be moving to a simpler form using only one figure and emphasizing the use of light.

This is what perfection looks like. Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher is a perfect painting, perfectly composed and exquisitely executed. Even the finest reproductions cannot capture the exact tone of its lovely blue-white light, and even the most carefully chosen words cannot describe its silent, astonishing beauty. Its power is out of all proportion to its size. No 18 by 16in. piece of cloth covered with pigment should be this impressive. Discussion seems superfluous. What more is there to say about something that is perfect in itself? I think of a passage from Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols that should haunt anyone who tries to write about great art: "Whatever we have words for, that we have already got beyond. In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems, was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable." In this Vermeer we see the ordinary raised to a poetry beyond words. There is beauty and mystery here that we cannot touch. The old cliche is true: words fail...

This is what perfection looks like. Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher is a perfect painting, perfectly composed and exquisitely executed. Even the finest reproductions cannot capture the exact tone of its lovely blue-white light, and even the most carefully chosen words cannot describe its silent, astonishing beauty. Its power is out of all proportion to its size. No 18 by 16in. piece of cloth covered with pigment should be this impressive. Discussion seems superfluous. What more is there to say about something that is perfect in itself? I think of a passage from Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols that should haunt anyone who tries to write about great art: "Whatever we have words for, that we have already got beyond. In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems, was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable." In this Vermeer we see the ordinary raised to a poetry beyond words. There is beauty and mystery here that we cannot touch. The old cliche is true: words fail...