Johannes Vermeer: Der Astronom, 1668, Öl auf Leinwand, 51 x 45 cm, Inv.-Nr. R.F. 1983-28, Musée du Louvre, Paris
The geographer has just been measuring distances on a map with his compass; now, he pauses for thought. The globe and the map on the wall represent the state of the art of cartography, which the Netherlands pioneered. The former features Europe’s coastlines, the latter the Indian Ocean, an important body of water for the country’s maritime-trade-based economy. Yet the work is neither a portrait nor does it tell a story. With painterly means, Vermeer endeavoured to capture the moment in which the geographer surveys the world in his mind.