Allegory of the Catholic Faith

Artist: Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

Date: ca. 1670–72

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 45 x 35 in. (114.3 x 88.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931

Accession Number: 32.100.18


In this atypical painting the artist employed a more abstractive style to suit the intellectual subject. The emotive figure of Faith with "the world at her feet" (according to Ripa’s compendium of allegories) casts her eyes to Heaven, symbolized by a glass sphere. On the floor, the apple of Original Sin sits near a serpent, representing Satan, who is crushed by Christ, the "cornerstone" of the church. The room, revealed behind a Flemish tapestry, looks like a chapel set up in a private house. Vermeer, who converted to Catholicism in order to marry, probably refers to the "hidden churches" where Catholics worshiped in the officially Protestant Dutch Republic.