This book is not only a fascinating biography of one of the greatest painters of the seventeenth century but also a social history of the colorful extended family to which he belonged and of the town life of the period. It explores a series of distinct worlds: Delft's Small-Cattle Market, where Vermeer's paternal family settled early in the century; the milieu of shady businessmen in Amsterdam that recruited Vermeer's grandfather to counterfeit coins; the artists, military contractors, and Protestant burghers who frequented the inn of Vermeer's father in Delft's Great Market Square; and the quiet, distinguished "Papists Corner" in which Vermeer, after marrying into a high-born Catholic family, retired to practice his art, while retaining ties with wealthy Protestant patrons. The relationship of Vermeer to his principal patron is one of many original discoveries in the book.
"[With Montias] the past is hard put to hide what were in all truth its secrets.... One will read Vermeer and His Milieu several times, as [Montias] has read the archives; he is an indispensable companion for anyone who likes the seventeenth century."--Lawrence Gowing, The [London] Times Literary Supplement
"What if 454 documents related to Vermeer and his family were lying, long undisturbed, in the archives of no fewer than 17 Dutch and Belgian cities? And what if someone were to transcribe and translate every one of them? Wouldn't we want to know all about it? Of course we would, and now that we have John Michael Montias' new book, Vermeer and His Milieu, we can see how right we are.... As detective work, and as a portrait of an era, [this book] ranks high."--New York Times Book Review
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