Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life. During his lifetime, he was a moderately successful provincial genre painter, recognized in Delft and The Hague. Nonetheless, he produced relatively few paintings and evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death.
Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.
"Almost all his paintings," Hans Koningsberger wrote, "are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women."
His modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken's major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists) and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.