World Maps in Vermeer's painting reflect the power and reach of the Dutch seaborne empire and the emergence of mapmaking as a pursuit of the superrich Dutch merchants.
With Dutch naval power rising rapidly as a major force from the late
16th century, the Netherlands dominated global commerce during the
second half of the 17th century during a cultural flowering known as the
Dutch Golden Age.
At the time maps were popular among prosperous citizens: they were
good to look at as well as educational and useful for showing off their
owners’ interest in geography and politics and even their patriotism.
This trend is very eloquently demonstrated in the most accurate
witnesses of everyday-life scenes of the time: the famous interior
paintings of the 17th century Dutch masters, Vermeer being the most
remarkable amongst them.
Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch
painter who specialized in 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.