The art: Johannes Vermeer, Officer and Laughing Girl, c.1657.
The source: Collection of The Frick Collection, New York.
Nota bene: From Vermeer to Jasper Johns, artists have long used maps to tell us something about our world. Vermeer may have used maps in many of his paintings to suggest that the characters in his paintings were naval officers on a courtship visit or that the women in the paintings were writing to or pining for men in the navy. Then again, Vermeer may have used them for other reasons altogether — art historians have been debating this topic for years.