Vermeer. Woman Holding a Balance. 1664.
I have a real fondness for Vermeer. One of my first courses in graduate school was based on his work. Of the Dutch Golden Age artists, he is certainly my favorite. I do really appreciate his ambiguous iconography and particularly his color sense. His paintings have a lot in common—like that window to the left, and a focus on a female figure—but somehow, he keeps me entranced.
This work is particularly great because of the parallel symbolism. The woman holds up the balance (which is level for the moment) and there is a painting of the last judgement hanging behind her (the ultimate measure of a human’s character in the eyes of Christians). Some have suggested that the whole painting is symbolic of predetermination, because the woman’s unborn child (although it’s unclear if she’s actually pregnant; see Van Eyck) is already having his/her fate decided before entering the world.