Johannes Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary was painted around 1654 in Delft, Netherlands. It is an oil painting on canvas and scales 160 x 142 cm.

The Netherlands was perfectly suited for many artists to make a tidy living off their artwork. The Thirty Year War had damaged Spanish rule, allowing the Netherlands to prosper into a merchant’s haven. Amsterdam became a hub for men to make money off of fishing and goods. This wealth spread into many homes, not just to businessmen.  Although not much is known about Vermeer’s patrons it is assumed that the upper middle class made up the bulk of his buyers. One of the more well known patrons is Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven. He had inherited his money from his father’s brewery and had raised himself through wise investments beyond the merchant class.  He supported Vermeer’s work throughout his lifetime and even lent the artist money when Vermeer’s finances were strained.

The reason I chose this painting over his many other well known works is because of it’s religious nature. Johannes Vermeer was not born Catholic, but converted shortly before his marriage to Catharina Bolenes in 1653. A few years after his marriage he stopped painting religious subjects and focused on the peasant life of Delft. In my opinion he painted Christ in the House of Martha and Mary and other religious paintings as a way to appease his new mother-in-law Maria Thins, who in many ways helped financially with his household. Although it is possible that his new found faith in Catholicism gave him inspiration the rest of his career makes me highly suspect. I enjoy this painting because it is an early Vermeer, and I can chart the growth of his technique throughout his career. The light that is captured in the blue of Mary’s skirt is breathtaking, even from an internet image. I love the idea that he used Indian Yellow. It is no longer being made as it is actually the dried urine of a cow that has been fed a special diet of mango leaves. Not very healthy for the cow, but marvelous for the world of painting.