Johannes Vermeer Paints The Allegory of the Faith

An unusually large canvas for Vermeer, this is one of the two known paintings of his that have explicitly allegorical content.

Vermeer had converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage, and this work may have been commissioned by a Catholic institution.

The subject matter for this allegory obviously did not suit Vermeer's taste. In the Art of Painting (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), he produced, in spite of the intrusion of iconographic material, a composition that conveyed a psychological approach joined to artistic execution. Even so, it was not really as successful as other works that imply thoughtfulness or meditation.

The Allegory of Faith is fraught with details that evidently were prescribed by the spiritual fathers (probably the Jesuits, although the first known owner of the painting was a Protestant) of the composition, but that did not fit into an artistic image with which Vermeer could cope.

One of these two paintings, probably the first one mentioned above, is shown by Vermeer in the background of his painting 'Allegory of Faith'. The original painting is that by Jacob Jordaens, Crucifixion, c. 1620, now in a private collection, Terningh collection, Antwerp. Vermeer may have owned a simplified and smaller copy.

It is quite remarkable that this painting was not exhibited in the Great Hall 'Groote zael', room I, but in the much smaller inner kitchen 'binnekeucken'. In this room also hung the gold tooled-leather, also shown in the 'Allegory of Faith.