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In particular, the picture itself demonstrates, through the use of linear perspective and chiaroscuro, that painting can fool the eye into "seeing" three-dimensional depth and solidity of form.All this was Vermeer's attempt to answer one recurrent question that continued to be debated by painters, sculptors and writers - What was the painter's place in society?How he managed to finance his generous use of ultramarine - even after the disastrous year of 1672 - remains something of a mystery.One answer is that he was supplied with materials by a collector, possibly Pieter van Ruijven, whose son-in-law Jacob Dissius held a major auction of 21 Vermeers in Amsterdam in 1696.The picture - at roughly 4 feet by 3 feet, his largest - is either an allegory or (perhaps more likely) a celebration of the art of painting.Either way, the scene's 'theatrical' quality is deliberately highlighted by the prominent curtain which is pulled back to the left as if revealing a stage play.Although it embodies certain of Vermeer's ideas about the art of painting, this canvas hardly represents either the artist himself or his working methods.Even so, it must have possessed some unusual significance for Vermeer, who kept the painting until his death.
This was (and still is) one of the world's most expensive colour pigments.
The Dutch translation of this important Italian work, by Dirck Pietersz Pers, first appeared in 1644, and Vermeer, if he did not own a copy, must have known the book well.
Clio is depicted wearing a laurel crown and carries a book by Thucydides and a trumpet (depicting fame).
In November 1940, it was purchased personally by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler from its owner Count Jaromir Czernin for a price of 1.65 million Reichsmarks.
After the war it was seized by the Americans who handed it over to the Austrian government.
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