This painting represents a familiar everyday scene that Vermeer uses to often illustrate in his works. It is reminiscent of ‘Woman with a pearl necklace’ or ‘A young woman holding a waterpitcher’, another by Vermeer. On this canvas we see a woman caught in a room, busy with her daily work. He held the balance in his right hand. In a dark room we see a large painting hanging on the wall, there is also a table.
The window was partially covered by a curtain, although some light entered the room. At first glance the painting has a mysterious atmosphere. We didn’t see exactly what the women were weighing and most of the room was hidden due to a lack of light, only the clothes and women’s hands were brightly lit, as if the writer wanted us to concentrate on that part. Light poured in from the window, and washes on the walls, revealing the painting of the Last Judgment. This painting on the back symbolizes the weighing of souls after they leave this earth.
The next item on the canvas that attracts attention is the mirror in front of the woman. It reflects his actions, his choice between the paths that life offers him. There are pearls and jewelery which could mean a very interesting time has passed, but the woman was hesitant about it. He tries to make up his mind if he wants to live spiritually or material things represented by pearls.
We can see that the woman’s face is very calm and has a serene expression as if to tell us that she might choose God’s path in life, especially considering the gloomy painting behind her. His eyes, though they may appear, do not see any balance, his gaze has somewhat turned back to his inner thoughts and spirits. This symbol again implies that the woman is changing her existence to the divine side.
Another symbolic meaning is carried by the distribution of light in the image.
For example, a background painting is hidden in the shadows, although it can still be seen, which means that while living people often do not consider the consequences of their life, it is there and it will come in the end. This leads us to the conclusion that while here the woman makes these decisions about good and bad, having thought of the “end” in her mind, she thinks about eternal things and cares only about them, as a hint of the allocation of light.
The name of the painting itself, tells us that the author suggests a balanced spiritual principle that is often embodied in Vermeer’s work: the need to live a balanced life. Although Vermeer’s method of work remains a mystery to this day, it is clear that he constructed this composition with great care. If we mentally draw orthogonal lines through the fingers of women from different sides of the painting, we will find that Vermeer remains devoted to his philosophical views and even the composition of the canvas supports him, because he maintains a perfect balance between the parts of the painting. I want to return to the problem of light in this painting again because I think it is one of the most important elements that identifies the main theme and focus.
I believe that light does not only mean drawing attention to the hands, but also tells us that women are experiencing a kind of spiritual enlightenment, which gives her strength and she feels the presence of God in her life. Perhaps that could explain the expression on her face that reminded him of the Virgin Mary. Vermeer maintains excellent control over the paint, it works effectively with solid impastos and thin glass, which give the color a glossy finish and have a better effect on the viewer, for example when the author wants to emphasize dramatic black or an unprinted yellow or white contrast.
The soft light effect is achieved through fine modulation in paint handling.
The overall impression of the painting is twofold. Initially it was seen as a gloomy picture of a sad woman emphasized by all the nuances and lots of dark spots on the canvas. True understanding and real appreciation come after that, when little detail is discovered.
One can find that this painting is an original masterpiece with multiple meanings and a whole life story behind it. Only the writer knows exactly what he means when he describes writing that canvas, but everyone who sees it can extract some universal truth from him, such as good vs bad, matter vs. spiritual, darkness and light, beauty and ugliness. …