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In this vertical painting, a woman stands near the corner of a dimly lit room, facing our left in profile and looking down at a balance she holds suspended in her right hand over a wooden table. She wears a peacock-blue velvet jacket with a white hood and fur lining, and a voluminous, mustard-yellow skirt. A window near the upper left corner is partially covered by a canary-yellow curtain. Light coming in through that window falls on the pale skin of the woman's face and hands, and highlights the white trim of her garment. Her left hand, closer to us, rests on the edge of the table near two open boxes, and a blue cloth is bunched at the back of the table to our left. Gold chains and pearl strands drape over the edge of one box. The woman stands in front of a framed painting. Much of the detail is lost in shadow but at the top center of the painting, a person surrounded by a golden halo floats in the sky with both arms raised, and is flanked by people encased within a bank of clouds. Nude people on the ground below in the painting, seen to either side of the woman, writhe, twist, and point upward.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, oil on canvas, Widener Collection, 1942.9.97

Gallery Talks

The Art of Looking

The Art of Looking

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance

  • Friday, August 19, 2022
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Virtual Program

Johannes Vermeer's Woman Holding a Balance is the inspiration for this interactive conversation. Join us and share your observations, interpretations, questions, and ideas, and build on your own first impressions to broaden your understanding of this work of art. This session lasts one hour and is completely interactive. 

National Gallery educators will facilitate the conversation to create an environment for shared learning. These conversations will encourage you to engage deeply with art, with others, and with the world around you as you hone skills in visual literacy and perspective-taking.

This program is free and open to the public and is designed for anyone interested in talking about art. No art or art history background is required. Ages 18 and over.

Due to the interactive nature of this program, sessions are not recorded.

Live Captions

Live captions (CART) are available in some breakout rooms for this program. Please contact [email protected] to request access or for more information.