|This is one of the earliest known paintings by Vermeer. He was probably around 23 years old when he made it, having just set up as an independent master.
The protagonist is Diana, the goddess of the hunt and the moon. She and her nymphs take a rest after hunting. Diana, seated in the middle, is recognisable by the crescent moon on her head.
The atmosphere is one of salutary rest. A nymph – observed by a hunting dog – carefully washes Diana’s feet. The standing woman dressed in black could be Callisto, the nymph who became pregnant from Jupiter, thereby inciting Diana’s anger. Perhaps this explains why she clutches her gown to her stomach with clenched fists.
This youthful work is rather different from Vermeer’s later paintings. This was his period of biblical and mythological representations; he was not yet depicting scenes of everyday life. Even so, this picture displays similarities to his later work, including the subdued, dreamy atmosphere and the rather granular texture of the fabric.