Archive for November, 2017

Analysis: Vermeer’s “Woman Holding a Balance”

November 2, 2017

Some paintings, such as Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat, are considered iconic because they have received repeated and prolonged exposure to a widespread audience who seem to grasp the image similarly, although the iconic quality may be difficult for them to verbalize and their understanding of the work may even be lacking. In any case, such paintings are charismatic; Mona Lisa is another perfect example of charismatic art. Art historians equipped to translate visual impressions into words develop interpretive hypotheses and debate their analyses, usually in the context of the time and place of a work’s creation. This is true with respect to the paintings of Dutch Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), who is categorized as having been a “moderately successful provincial genre painter.” Yet, how well are his luminous and light-depicting—light within light—paintings really understood?

Historians do not discuss Vermeer (baptized Joannis van der Meer) as having been an occultist although at least one has intuited the presence of “surreptitious data” in his scenes. It was recognized long ago that some of Vermeer’s paintings were “allegorical” and many others carried “secret messages” via hidden symbols, such as: a lemon to indicate the sourness of a relationship; a pitcher of wine to indicate sexual arousal; a fishing rod to show the desire to allure; images of Cupid on a wall, or a bowl of apples, to reveal the erotic content of his subject’s mindscape. Such elements are present in: A Maid Asleep (1656), The Girl with the Wine Glass (1659-60), Girl Interrupted at Her Music (1661-62), The Music Lesson (1664), The Love Letter (1669), and Lady Standing at a Virginal (1675). Only about three dozen paintings are believed extant today, but enough to establish patterns in his work, and deviations. Yet none have been considered occult in the sense of hiding forbidden knowledge or heretical doctrines.

Unlike the numerous Vermeer paintings featuring those relatively obvious symbols relating to amorous intentions and relationships, and the accompanying moral issues, his Woman Holding a Balance (1662-63), shown in Image File #64, is an essentially occult work that, until now, has escaped detection or identification as such. The lack of on-the-mark decoding during the past three-hundred-plus years is reflected in the fact that the work was originally titled Woman Weighing Gold. So, it is not an iconic work, and it has not gained enough public attention to stimulate in-depth analysis or debate toward becoming iconic, or uniquely important; at least, we have been unable to evidence any. What we found is that this work has been mainly perceived as merely a “domestic interior scene,” trivial, ordinary, making Woman Holding a Balance an unrecognized enigma wrapped in a lacey handkerchief. Although it has been claimed and widely accepted that Vermeer’s paintings were devoid of messages or teachings, erudite students have perceived Christian metaphors. But none have penetrated the painting’s mask.

By contrast, PluribusOne™ wishes to report that this painting, this historical artifact, is probably Vermeer’s most important and significant work. It is important not only because it offers insights into Vermeer’s psyche and mission but also because it shows the presence of a secret society occult influence such that the work is better described as Post-Renaissance than Baroque, or as bridging the eras. Vermeer was apparently an initiate in the Rosicrucian-Freemason tradition, and the intended audience for Woman Holding a Balance could only have cherished it. The painting is a significant work because it evidences the undying spirit and promise for continuation of societal forces working toward the independent New World portended by artworks such as Botticelli’s two hundred years earlier; see, for example, the January 2011 post: “Analysis: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’” and others. During Vermeer’s lifetime, colonization of America was still in its early infancy while an ancient secret society master plan was steadily unfolding, of which Vermeer had some apparent knowledge.

The theme of Woman Holding a Balance is, in our analysis, an expression of the Great Architect’s distress due to religious conflict in Europe and, further, expresses Divine intention to deliver justice to the world through enlightened initiates. Vermeer was not insulated from religious stress; as a young man, Vermeer was pressed to convert to Catholicism although living in a Protestant region. The painting displays a coded call to moral actions that embrace justice through sacred principles of Nature, principles that eclipse doctrines of religious artifice to do their work as surely as gravity has its way. The painting within the painting depicts The Last Judgment and displays Jesus making the Masonic sign of distress, a call for support. The apparently pregnant woman holding empty scales plumb-like indicates Judgment is inevitable, imminent, and upheld by the capable hand of the Divine Feminine, the archetype represented in Catholicism by the Madonna, hence the blue and white garment (see the September 2017 post: “Exploring the Cube of Space-Time-Mind™”). The pearls and jewels symbolize her wisdom and knowledge. She is a variation of Themis, Greek Titaness over such matters as fairness, natural law, and pragmatism—forerunner of Lady Justice. Vermeer’s conversion to mollify his wife and mother-in-law was clearly a pragmatic decision, made to ensure domestic unity and prosperity. The woman’s right hand is a signal conveying the idea that all is okay and under control when matters are kept “on the level;” her outstretched little finger, the tabletop, the left hand resting evenly on the table, and the perfectly hung painting all align with and reiterate this core message, an interpretation further reinforced by the fact that the right little finger’s tip lies at the painting’s vanishing point and geometric center as if to say: “This is the point and central purpose of this painting.” The overall directive from on high, to those having the eyes to see, is to make society plumb, level, and square in every way, like a harmonious structure built by competent stonemasons—and under centralized control. Note that the floor in the painting is a black and white checkered pattern, denoting good and evil in human affairs, like the floor of a Masonic lodge. Vermeer used this flooring in other paintings as well.

With the decoding of the “surreptitious data” contained in Woman Holding a Balance, the use of resonant data—such as the checkered floor—in other Vermeer paintings opens the door to greater understanding of his overarching motivation and to expanded importance of the entire body of his work. Because, I am impelled to posit, all of Vermeer’s paintings portray members of an essentially hidden class of “movers and shakers,” a tiny number of society-shaping families, members of which owned the remarkable homes, lavish clothing, and expensive jewelry depicted throughout most of Vermeer’s oeuvre. His patrons were few and wealthy. So, even the iconic Girl with the Red Hat is likely to have esoteric quality, at least for art-loving initiates. She was not, we argue, a fancifully dressed model as commonly held.

Woman Holding a Balance (along with Girl with the Red Hat) presently hangs in the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C, founding father of which was Andrew William Mellon (1855-1937)—an art-loving Freemason preserving hidden history.