Artibus et Historiae no. 14 (VII)

1986, ISSN 0391-9064

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ARTHUR K. WHEELOCK, JR. - St. Praxedis: New Light on the Early Career of Vermeer

St. Praxedis signed and dated 1655, can be firmly placed among the early works of Johannes Vermeer. This large and striking painting, now in the private collection, New York, is a close copy of a painting by the seventeenth century Florentine artist Felice Ficherelli. While Vermeer closely followed his model, he added a crucifix and gave his figure a stronger physical presence. Although no contemporary documents record the presence of Ficherelli's St. Praxedis in Delft, a number of Italian paintings, and copies of Italian paintings, were in the Netherlands around mid-century. Clearly a market for such works existed. Vermeer may have painted this subject because of his connections with the Jesuits. Technical examinations demonstrate that the paints used are consistent with Dutch practices. The ways in which Vermeer layered his paints and highlighted forms in this work parallel his painting techniques in other early works. This painting, thus, reveals much of Vermeer's working methods and clarifies aspects of h is artistic origins.

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