Feel Art Again: "Allegory of the Catholic Faith"

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While historians are unsure of Johannes Vermeer's birth date, they are certain that he was baptized on October 31, 1632. In honor of both his baptism and All Saints Day "“ a Catholic holiday "“ let's take a look at his "Allegory of the Catholic Faith."

1. Johannes Vermeer converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage, which was unusual because Catholics were, at that time in Dutch society, an unpopular minority often discriminated against. He and his wife then named all of their 11 children after Catholic saints.

2. "Allegory of the Catholic Faith" is one of only two Vermeer paintings to have explicitly allegorical content. It is also the only one to be considered a failure by some scholars, due in part to Vermeer's handling of the allegorical content in this painting as compared to "The Art of Painting."

3. The image is drawn mostly from a book by Cesare Ripa titled "Iconologia," including the depiction of Faith with the "world at her feet."

4. The globe is a Dutch globe which was published in 1618; the crucifixion scene on the back wall is based on a painting by Jacob Jordaens.

5. Some of the symbolism in the painting include the glass sphere (the divine world), the apple (first sin), the serpent (Satan), and the stone (Christ, the cornerstone of the church). Other Catholic elements include a crucifix, a Bible, and a chalice.

6. Vermeer did not achieve great renown during his lifetime, nor did his artwork bring in much money for his family; he was known to have financial difficulties. However, he made frequent use of the pigment lapis lazuli (natural ultramarine), which was exorbitantly expensive at the time.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.