Dutch Genre Paintings by Vermeer
Genre painting refers (originally) to paintings of ordinary people in everyday circumstances.
The most illustrious national school of genre painting was that of the Netherlands in the 17th century. Probably never before or since was the ordinary life of a nation depicted so fully as was the Dutch life of this period. The paintings of Johannes Vermeer of Delft (1632–1675) more often represent ladies and gentlemen than peasants. The scene is usually placed in a small, elegant room lighted by a latticed casement, the atmosphere and colouring of which are admirably managed. Vermeer used lead white extensively to lighten other colours, and a typical feature of Vermeer's genre painting are the white-washed walls of the interiors, with the light from the tall windows reflected back into the room.
Vermeer used dark backgrounds for the paintings: Girl with a Pearl Earring, "Study of a Young Girl", and in the "Mistress and Maid". Leonardo da Vinci had noted that a dark background makes an object appear lighter and vice versa and Leonardo himself employed the device in some of his portraits. The dark background in the Girl with a Pearl Earring brings to mind Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn.