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Johannes Vermeer's intensely quiet and enigmatic paintings invite the viewer into a private world, often prompting more questions than answers. Who is being portrayed? Are his subjects real or imagined? What is shown on the map on the wall? What news does a letter bring?

Seemingly unaware of the viewer, each subject--the milkmaid, the guitar player, the girl with a pearl earring--occupies an intimateand private space. Vermeer's paintings, with their enigmatic interiors and masterful handling of natural light, bring us into a closed, internal world, but with many tantalizing points of contact with the outside world. What details do we know of Vermeer's personal life? How did it affect his painting style?

This is the first major study of Vermeer's life and work for many years, bringing together diverse strands of his professional and private life in Delft in the seventeenth century and examining important research that has revealed new ways of looking at his paintings.

Accompanying a major exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, this volume sheds light on every one of Vermeer's known paintings, thirty-five in all, with a wide selection of contextual illustrations, commentaries, and up-to-date research by the most distinguished international Vermeer scholars. Vermeer will be required reading for lovers of the most admired of all Dutch seventeenth-century painters and one of the world'sgreatest artists.