Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (Dutch pronunciation: [joˈhɑnəs jɑn ʋərˈmeːr]; baptized in Delft on 31 October 1632 as Joannis, and buried in the same city under the name Jan on 15 December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.
Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for cornflower blue and yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.
Recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, 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 sixty-six pictures to him, although only thirty-four 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.
Delft in 1652, by cartographer Willem Blaeu
Relatively little is known about Vermeer's life. He seems to have been exclusively devoted to his art, living out his life in the city of Delft. The only sources of information are some registers, a few official documents and comments by other artists; it was for this reason that Thoré Bürger named him "The Sphinx of Delft".
On October 31, 1632, Johannes was baptized in the Reformed Church. His father, Reijnier Janszoon, was a middle-class worker of silk or caffa (a mixture of silk and cotton or wool).[Note 1] As an apprentice in Amsterdam, Reijnier lived on fashionable Sint Antoniesbreestraat, then a street with many resident painters. In 1615 he married Digna Baltus. The couple moved to Delft and had a daughter, Gertruy, who was baptized in 1620.[Note 2] In 1625 Reijnier was involved in a fight with a soldier named Willem van Bylandt, who died from his wounds five months later. Around this time Reijnier began dealing in paintings. In 1631 he leased an inn called "The Flying Fox". In 1641 he bought a larger inn on the market square, named after the Belgian town "Mechelen". The acquisition of the inn constituted a considerable financial burden.[Huerta 1] When Vermeer's father died in October of 1652, Vermeer assumed operation of the family's art business.
Marriage and family
View of Delft (1660–61) "He took a turbulent reality, and made it look like Heaven on earth." 
In April 1653 Johannes Reijniersz Vermeer married a Catholic girl named Catharina Bolenes (Bolnes). The blessing took place in a nearby and quiet village Schipluiden.[Note 3] For the groom it was a good match. His mother-in-law, Maria Thins, was significantly wealthier than he, and it was probably she who insisted Vermeer convert to Catholicism before the marriage on 5 April.[Note 4] Some scholars doubt that Vermeer became Catholic, but one of his paintings, The Allegory of Catholic Faith, made between 1670 and 1672, reflects the belief in the Eucharist. Walter Liedtke in Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests it was made for a Catholic patron, or for a schuilkerk, a hidden church.[Liedtke 1] At some point the couple moved in with Catharina's mother, who lived in a rather spacious house at Oude Langendijk, almost next to a hidden Jesuit church.[Note 5] Here Vermeer lived for the rest of his life, producing paintings in the front room on the second floor. His wife gave birth to 14 children: four of whom were buried before being baptized, but were registered as "child of Johan Vermeer".[Note 6] From wills written by relatives, ten names are known: Maria, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, Beatrix, Johannes, Gertruyd, Franciscus, Catharina, and Ignatius.[Montias 1] Quite a few have a name with a religious connotation and it is very likely that the youngest, Ignatius, was named after the founder of the Jesuit order.[Note 7]