Johannes Vermeer Paints The Lacemaker

The Lacemaker is a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), completed between 1669–1670 and held in the Louvre, Paris.

The work shows a young woman dressed in a yellow shawl bent in concentration as she sews the threads of a dress. At 24.5 cm x 21 cm (9.6 in x 8.3 in), the work is the smallest of Vermeer's paintings, however in many ways it is one of his most abstract and unusual.

The girl is set against a blank wall, likely because the artist sought to eliminate any external distractions from the central image. As with his The Astronomer (1668) and The Geographer (1669), it is obvious that the artist undertook careful study before he executed the work; the art of lacemaking is portrayed closely and accurately. Vermeer likely used a camera obscura while composing the work; many optical effects typical of photography can be seen, in particular the blurring of the foreground. By rendering areas of the canvas as out-of-focus, Vermeer is able to suggest depth of field in a manner unusual of Dutch Baroque painting of the era.

In The Lacemaker, the artist presents the various elements which compose both the girl's face and body as well as the pattern of the material she is working on in an abstract manner. The girl's hands, the curls of her hair and the T-cross which form her eyes and nose are all described in an abstract manner unusual for the era in which Vermeer worked. In addition, the red and white of the lace is shown as spilling from the sewing cushion with physical properties suggesting a near liquid form. The blurring of these threads contrasts sharply with the precision of the lace she is shown working on

The viewer's emotional engagement is unique in Vermeer's oeuvre. The painting's intimacy, derived from its small scale, personal subject matter, and informal composition, draws the viewer to it, challenging the barrier between image and reality; Vermeer suggests the total absorption in her task through her constricted pose and the bright yellow of her bodice, an active and psychologically intense color. Even her hairstyle conveys something or her physical and psychological state of being, for it is likewise both tightly constrained and rhythmically flowing. Finally, the crisp accents of light that illuminate her forehead and fingers emphasize the precision and clarity of vision required by this demanding craft.