Staff Favorites: Northern Baroque 400

Oil painting of a woman and man sitting at a table near a window

Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl

The first time I took note of Vermeer, and his Officer and Laughing Girl, was as a junior at Syracuse University. Sitting among my peers on the first day of class for Northern Baroque 400, I was introduced to the art of the period, which, in its most typical manifestations, is characterized by intense light and dark shadows, great drama, and rich, deep color. Until this class, I had mostly taken courses on Impressionism and was just beginning to dive deeper into the required courses for my art history degree. I was instantly attracted to the rich portrayal of everyday life that is a hallmark of the Baroque style. The week we were introduced to Vermeer, I fell head over heels in love with the beautiful contrast and lighting of his rural scenes. I chose to write my final paper on his Officer and Laughing Girl. I spent countless hours in the library doing research, writing and rewriting, picking apart the scene’s every detail. I was waiting for the moment I would grow tired of looking at the same work of art, but it never came.

Flash forward a year, and I’m now on a trip to New York for seniors majoring in art history. On our agenda is a visit to the Frick, home to Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl. The moment I saw it in person was surreal. I vowed that I would work among art like this when I graduated; in my eyes, nothing else could compare. I never expected my wish to be fulfilled later that year when I was hired as a summer intern at the Frick. Each time I passed Officer and Laughing Girl, I was awestruck and humbled. My internship eventually evolved into a full-time position at the Frick Art Reference Library, a dream job at the intersection of research and Old Masters artwork. For this, I thank Northern Baroque 400.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), Officer and Laughing Girl, ca. 1657. Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (50.5 x 46 cm)

Staff Favorites is a series of personal reflections by Frick staff members about works of art in the permanent collection. In January 2021, the Frick—in association with DelMonico Books/D.A.P. New York—will publish a collection of texts in a similar vein by prominent artists, writers, and other cultural figures, each sharing how a work of art at the museum has moved or inspired them. Titled The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick, the anthology is made possible by The Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation.

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