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Pictures in Paintings

Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer and Manager of Gallery Talks and Lectures for Adults, Department of Education. Dutch 17th-century homes typically would have included a variety of wall decorations, including curtains, mirrors, and pictures. Many specialists in genre painting represented interiors with paintings and prints of recognizable subjects. These pictures within pictures are sometimes, though not always, a significant clue as to the interpretation of a painting. This lecture, given by Eric Denker on December 19, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, explores the added or reinforced symbolism of these depictions in the context of the genre painting of Vermeer and his contemporaries. The symbolic use of mirrors is also considered. This lecture is in conjunction with the landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry—on view from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018—which examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting.