(Baptised Delft, 31 October 1632; buried Delft, 16 December 1675). Dutch painter. Among the great Dutch artists of the 17th century, he is now second in renown only to Rembrandt, but he made little mark during his lifetime and then long languished in obscurity. Almost all the contemporary references to him are in colourless official documents and his career is in many ways enigmatic. As far as is known, he lived all his life in his native Delft and rarely made even local journeys outside it. He became a member of the painters' guild there in 1653 and was twice elected hooftman (headman), but it is not known who taught him. His name is often linked with that of Carel Fabritius, but it is doubtful if he can have been Vermeer's teacher in the formal sense; this distinction may belong to Leonaert Bramer, although there is no similarity between their work. Only about 35 to 40 paintings by Vermeer are known, and although some early works may have been destroyed in the disastrous Delft gunpowder explosion of 1654, it is unlikely that the figure was ever much larger: this is because most of the Vermeers mentioned in early sources can be identified with surviving pictures, whilst only a few pictures now attributed to him are not mentioned in these sources—thus there are few loose ends.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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