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(detail of an unfinished portrait showing the underpainting in the shadowed side of the face) Andrea del Sarto c. The Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace, London After the initial outline drawing was completed, Vermeer began the "dead coloring" (or underpainting as it is called today), one of the most important stages in his working procedure.

Without a thorough knowledge and mastery of the underpainting technique, the extraordinary unity which characterizes Vermeer's most mature pictures may not have been easily achieved.

Chairs, maps, framed paintings, musical instruments, baskets, a standing cavalier and even a dog can no longer be seen where they were originally represented.

Vermeer probably painted them out in the underpainting stage having seen that they did not produce the desired effect or distracted from the painting's theme.

Vermeer generally used black and brown in his underpainting.