In Woman Holding A Balance, studied equilibrium creates a moment of supreme stillness. The woman contemplates the balance in her right hand, drawing our attention to the act of weighing and judging. Her hand and the scale are central, but directly behind her head is a painting of the Last Judgment, highlighting the figure of Christ the Judge in a gold oval above her head. The juxtaposition seems to turn Vermeer’s genre scene into a metaphor for eternal judgment, a sobering religious reference that may reflect the artist’s own position as a Catholic living in a Protestant country. The woman’s moment of quiet introspection in front of the gold and pearls displayed on the table before her, shimmering with reflected light from the window, also evokes the vanitas theme of the transience of earthly life.1
1 Stokstad, Marilyn and Cothren, Michael W. Art History, 6th Edition (Pearson, 2018).