A gold coin is a coin made mostly or entirely of gold. Gold has been used for coins practically since the invention of coinage, originally because of gold's intrinsic value.
Woman Holding a Balance
"Woman with a Balance" provides us not with a warning but with comfort and reassurance; it makes us feel not vanity of life but its preciousness. Against the violent baroque agitation of the painting behind her, the woman asserts a quite, imperturbable calm, the quintessence of Vermeer's vision.
Edward A. Snow, A Study of Vermeer, 1979
by Alejandro Vergara
Vermeer and the Dutch Interior, Madrid, 2003, p. 254
A young woman delicately holds an empty pair of scales in her right hand. She seems to be waiting for them to balance out before she weighs something, probably the gold coins at the edge of the table.
Also on the table are some jewels, pearl necklaces and a gold chain. On the far wall hangs a painting of the Last Judgment (upper right) while: on the left wall facing the woman is a mirror. The contrast between the valuable objects on the table, the Last Judgment and the scales, symbols of the Judgment itself, are intended to remind the viewer of the importance of resisting the temptation of earthily riches and living moderately in order to obtain salvation. The calmness of the young woman's feature's indicates that she is capable of living according to these principles. The subject of moderation appears in other paintings by Vermeer, such as The Girl with the Wine Glass, in which the stained-glass window features a female figure who can be identified as an allegory of Temperance. In the present work, the contrast between the various objects is what fills the painting with meaning.
While the presence of the Last Judgment indicates that the message of this painting has religious connotations, we should not forget its similarities to other works by Vermeer of the mid-1660s; such as Young Woman with a Water Jug, and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. These two works, as with the present one, depict a young woman in a thoughtful attitude within a domestic interior accompanied by symbolic elements. In conclusion, we are dealing with images in which the artist imbues an everyday context with an atmosphere of idealization and calm that can be related to universal issues such as purity, love and, in this case, moderation.
Vermeer's paintings of around 1665 reach an unprecedented level of harmony and serenity. The delicate transition between areas of light and shade and the rhythm established by the colour relations contribute to the refinement of the scene: the woman's blue jacket echoes the piece of material on the table, while the colour of the curtain on the left reverberates in the ochre tones on the table, the orange and yellow of the woman's stomach and in the verticals of the picture frame on the far wall. The young woman's concentrated expression and the strict geometry of the composition, which alternates in a masterful way the horizontal and vertical lines with the diagonal created by the light entering from the window, are other elements which contribute to the exquisite sophistication of this painting.
It is likely that when he painted this work Vermeer was inspired by a painting of De Hoogh's, Woman Weighing Coins (lower right). The similarities of the subject and composition between the two works are not coincidental and indicate the relation between De Hoogh and Vermeer, the first often the most innovative, while the second transformed his models by giving them a more spiritual, abstracted appearance. In Pieter de Hoogh's work the spectator focuses on the anecdotal details, such as the gesture of the woman's hands and the textures of the materials and the geometrical construction of the scene. Vermeer uses these same elements, together with others such as the distribution of the areas of light and shade, converting them into verticals which serve to transcend the everyday and create a scene which conveys the feeling of a timeless truth.
Around half of Vermeer's works produced between 1657 and 1670 were acquired by one collector, Pieter van Ruijven, probably including the present canvas. by
It has been suggested that the women in Woman in Blue Reading a Letter and Woman Holding a Balance are not pregnant at all but merely depicted in accordance with a conventional seventeenth-century ideal of feminine beauty. Yet in none of the similarly clothed women of Vermeer's contemporaries (compare, for instance, Pieter de Hooch's Woman Weighing Gold -quite likely painted in imitation of Woman Holding a Balance), nor in any of the bell-shaped women of the Van Eycks and their followers, is the idea of woman's pregnancy communicated, as it is so powerfully in these two paintings by Vermeer. Their atmosphere is so-pregnant-with a sense of gestation, a sense of life cherished, tenderly cradled, and as such assured of its continuance into the future, that to deny the actual pregnancy where these feelings find embodiment is to resist the values the paintings generate. What does need to be resisted is the purely anecdotal reading of this pregnancy, and the vulgar art-historica
1834 plain 4 $5.00 PCGS MS63, CAC sticker
Classic Head. The short-lived Classic Head half eagle type is fascinating to me as it bridges the "old gold" issues of the early 19th century with the more familiar Liberty Head issues that began in 1839. Classic Head half eagles are readily available in lower grades and can even be found in MS60 to MS61 with just a bit effort but they are rare in properly graded MS63 and very rare above this. What I like about MS63 Classic Head half eagles is that they are (sometimes) very high quality but a great value in comparison to MS64's which jump in Trends to $27,500.